City of Calgary extends LRT station closing hours due to ‘social disorder’ – Calgary
Several Calgary light rail stations are now closed 24 hours a day due to continued large gatherings and social unrest, according to transit officials.
Earlier this month, the City of Calgary announced that Southland, Heritage and Anderson stations would be closed to the public from 10 p.m. until the start of service the next day, with access to platforms and C-Trains still available. .
At the time, city officials said about 170 people sought shelter at train stations each night, and those stations lacked restrooms and regular overnight temperature screenings.
Calgary Transit fares rise as ridership struggles to rebound
Instead, the city would deploy resources to transport vulnerable people using train stations as shelter to local shelters and services.
But there has been a rise in what have been seen as “social unrest calls” and it has prompted transit officials to close indoor access to Anderson, Southland, Heritage and Erlton Stampede Park stations.
Transit officials said the closures allow Calgary Transit to “take care of other station buildings where people congregate.”
COVID-19 causing Calgary Transit staff shortages, route changes, cancellations
Global News has learned that the 24-hour closings have been in place since Sunday evening.
According to Calgary Transit, there were “large gatherings throughout the day,” estimated at around 130 people per night, and that also raised concerns about the potential spread of the Omicron variant COVID-19.
“With the staffing shortages we have experienced, this close proximity, no physical distancing and very little masking was dangerous not only for the people there, but also for our regular clientele,” Will Fossen, the Calgary Transit Public coordinator Safety Enforcement Agency, told Global News.
Homeless advocate says ‘very common’ attacks on vulnerable people highlight dangers
Fossen said physical altercations had been reported to transit officers, but many concerns were about damaged property at stations that needed repair.
“Some of the handles were removed because there was repeated damage to the doors that people had caused,” Fossen said. “There was damage inside, public health issues inside that also needed to be cleaned up.”
Calgary Transit said the four stations were the only ones they were able to close without impacting service.
Some C-train stations will close at night to help Calgary’s homeless in the cold
Ward 11 Councilor Kourtney Penner, who represents the area in which three of the stations are located, said the updated closures underscore the need for more support for the city’s vulnerable populations.
“Train closures are not the solution, we know that. We know transit riders need to feel safe…and we know supports are needed for vulnerable populations,” Penner told Global News. “So we have to balance those three needs at the same time.”
Proposed $750,000 emergency funding for Calgary homeless gets green light from committee
Penner said outreach efforts have had some success, with some vulnerable Calgarians being brought to shelters and others to housing.
His message to riders is to continue using Calgary Transit, but also to take a compassionate approach to the situation involving the city’s vulnerable populations.
“We’re not trying to shy away from having tough conversations about the situation,” Penner said. “That’s where I’m looking to step up and make sure we’re open and honest about what’s going on and why.”
Tents have been moved outside the Calgary homeless shelter as outreach groups respond to cold weather calls
Data from the City of Calgary showed that between January 10 and 14, there were 303 transports to accommodation services from C-train stations, including 111 via the emergency shelter shuttle service and 192 by Transit Peace Officers and the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP).
The city estimates that the transports involved around 150 people who used the service multiple times.
Chaz Smith, homeless care advocate and founder of Be The Change YYC, said there’s a reason some vulnerable Calgarians are flocking to LRT stations rather than accessing available shelter services.
New Warming Space, Expanded DOAP Team to Help Calgary Homeless
“I’m not sure this will ultimately solve the problem,” Smith told Global News. “We look at systemic barriers, people accessing certain types of shelters.
“Whether or not they can access the shelters is the question we need to understand here”
Smith said the situation is a backlog of homeless people who want services that “just don’t exist.”
“What people are asking for are pet shelters, a shelter where they can go with their loved one and not be separated. An Indigenous-friendly shelter… So they are looking for an Indigenous-type program,” Smith said.
“We have women fleeing domestic violence and women’s shelters are often completely full, and putting them into that general population can be very daunting.”
Calgary’s social support services are under increased pressure as the pandemic continues
Smith pointed to an initiative in Edmonton, which includes a temporary activation of additional cold-weather shelter space as well as a dedicated transit bus that transports people from train stations to shelters between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Transit officials said there is no timeline in place for reopening the interior areas of stations to the public.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.