There’s no doubt that the homeless situation is an issue that Edmonton City Council wants to see buried. Literally.
Despite a 2016 CBC report citing that homelessness has decreased by 24 percent over a two-year period, with nearly 1,800 citizens lacking domiciles, administrators have found the drop has nothing to do with an economic recovery or the introduction of social programs.
According to one urban planner, the connection has more to do with a boom in pothole repairs in the inner city as workers fill those gaping craters. It turns out that some potholes are so large, they’re capable of accommodating at least one homeless person. And on occasions when repair crews work on streets near the city core, the homeless population inexplicably drops.
“That’s the only connection we have,” said one planner. “Those holes are so dirty, it’s hard for an occupant to stay clean once camped inside. They’re so dusty and filthy, there’s no way for workers to tell if anyone is living in it. And when the asphalt is poured into the hole, crews have no idea that there’s a living being down there dying of asphyxiation.”
Staff who work at the Bissell Centre, which takes care of homeless citizens, claim that the explanation is bunk. “Believe me, those were no accidents,” declared one staff member. “The tarps that occupants put over the potholes to ward off rain should have been a dead giveaway. Even cars swerve around them to avoid incidents.”
One homeless person who would only identify himself as Al, said there’s even more telling evidence. “See that wire poking out at the edge of this covered hole?” he asked, pointing to a freshly-patched area on the street. “That’s an extension cord. I knew a guy named Willie who snaked a cord across the street to that church over there to keep his beer fridge running. Man, poor Willy…”
He also pointed out another patch that had a variety of wires visible on the seam of the repair job. “That was my buddy Bocephus,” he said. “Bo had Internet running down there. And that wire on the side is a coax cable that he used to get the Oilers playoffs on a tiny flatscreen he found in a dumpster. He never lived to see Game 7 of the game against Anaheim. It’s probably just as well.”
City planners flatly deny the pothole program had an ulterior motive to reduce the homeless population. But Al is sticking to his story, adding that they weren’t merely vagrants, but folks down on their luck who tried to make a difference.
“Yep, most of my friends died needlessly,” he said. “You know, they always wanted to support the city in one way or another. I guess with them unknowingly being part of filler in a repair job, they’re doing just that.”