Boyle McCauley News

Since 1979 • June-July 2024 • Circulation 5000


Community Safety Liaison Gives Support and Hope to Those Living in Problem Properties

Community Safety Liaison, Christie Smith. Supplied by the City of Edmonton

Christie Smith stands outside a residential building, preparing to meet the individuals living inside. 

She’s a Community Safety Liaison working with the City of Edmonton’s Residential Inspection Safety Compliance (RISC) Team. RISC provides a coordinated multi-agency approach to complex residential living situations involving vulnerable individuals, families, and places. The team works to uphold minimum housing standards at high-risk properties and to reduce impacts in the surrounding community. 

Christie’s civilian clothes set her apart from her uniformed team members. She is not an enforcement officer, but a registered social worker providing support to people staying in or working at problem properties.

“My role is to assess the needs of vulnerable individuals and provide connections to resources and services that help meet their basic needs and enhance their overall social well being,” says Christie.

In 2023, RISC conducted 2,031 inspections at 207 properties citywide, with a significant number of these being located in the neighbourhoods of McCauley, Alberta Avenue, and Central McDougall.  

At every visit, Christie takes an individualized, human-centred approach that addresses the specific needs of each resident. 

“Every visit is different and every individual is unique,” says Christie. “Someone might need a connection to income support or health-care assistance. In the context of problem properties, many folks need support to leave an unhealthy living situation and access safe and secure housing.”

This work requires a variety of skills including active listening, patience, advocacy, and, above all, empathy. It also requires a knowledge of Edmonton’s broad network of social agencies - knowledge which Christie has acquired through years of work with Edmonton John Howard Society, Bissell Centre, and Sage Seniors Association.

Currently, Christie is working with Bruce (not his real name), a resident in his 80s. Bruce was renting a suite in a building that was very poorly maintained by its owner. Safety and health violations at the property led to the intervention of the RISC team, who learned that the company that owned the building was dissolved, the property was being sold, and the tenants were being evicted. 

“When I met Bruce he had less than two weeks to find another place to live,” says Christie. “I arranged an interview for him with GEF Seniors Housing, and supported him at the interview. Unfortunately, there were no GEF units available before Bruce’s eviction date. Then, to complicate the situation, the property Bruce was preparing to leave caught fire and he was forced to move immediately.”

Christie succeeded in locating a space that Bruce could move into quickly, then began helping him replace the furniture that had been damaged in the fire. 

“Bruce’s insurance company told us that most of his furniture was too old to replace,” explains Christie. “So I set him up with an inflatable mattress and connected him with Find furniture, a social enterprise of Homeward Trust Edmonton that offers essential furnishings free of charge to folks who are transitioning out of homelessness.”

Over the first five months of her work as a Community Safety Liaison, Christie has supported 51 unique individuals to overcome a variety of challenges. Her human-centric role is an important part of the overall work of the RISC team, ensuring that the people in need are connected to services and transitioned into healthier and safer environments.

The RISC team’s membership includes five City departments, Alberta Health Services, Edmonton Police Service, and three Government of Alberta areas. Each partner plays a unique role and brings different strategies and legislation to the team. 

RISC’s work is part of Edmonton’s Problem Property Initiative. In December of 2022, City Council approved permanent funding to implement the City’s long-term strategy to address properties that cause frequent and serious safety concerns and complaints to the City. 

In developing the strategy, the City took into consideration the perspectives of tenants, landlords, enforcement partners, and community members. This research revealed that the City’s approach to problematic residential properties would benefit from the inclusion of a Community Safety Liaison at property inspections. 

To learn more about the Problem Property Initiative or to report a problem property, visit or call 311.

Information provided by the City of Edmonton.

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