City of Kingston set to move forward with plan to remove unhoused campers
Homeless individuals living in tents in Kingston, Ont., on municipal land surrounding the Integrated Care Hub are bracing for a possible eviction by the city.
“I know I won’t leave easy, and I am not the only one,” said Jay English, one of the campers that could be forced to relocate in a week.
The municipality plans to remove people living mostly in tents and lean-tos made from scrap wood on March 21.
Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson says he expects those remaining at the camp will leave voluntarily.
“We are in a different position now than we were back in January,” Paterson told Global Kingston.
Near the end of January, an Ontario court ruled that in order to evict people from encampments like the one surrounding the Integrated Care Hub, a municipality needs enough low-barrier shelters to accommodate them.
The city says it’s added more low-barrier shelter options to accommodate for different needs including couples, women-only shelters, shelters that allow for pets as well as storage facilities and mental health services.
For many living in the encampment, what is missing from that list is the option for individuals living with addiction.
“If you get caught using drugs, if you get caught with any drug paraphernalia, you’re off the premises and you are not allowed there. That’s not low-barrier because we all have an addiction problem,” said Cecil Lee, another unhoused camper.
Harm reduction and addiction services like the municipality’s only safe consumption site at the Integrated Care Hub are part of what draws many to the encampment.
Paterson says the other shelters in the city can accommodate drug users by providing transit to the ICH if they need to use.
“As a municipality we are not legally able to open up our own spaces where drugs can be used inside,” said Paterson.
Trellis HIV & Community Care oversees the operation of the ICH and its executive director, Gilles Charette, says unhoused individuals shouldn’t be forced to leave the encampment.
“The challenge that we find ourselves in it’s that there are still individuals in the encampment and we need to ask ourselves why that is,” said Charette.
Charette and Lee say the real answer to the encampment is providing housing rather than shelters.
by Global News