Council set for special meeting on encampments

City council will come together Wednesday evening to debate options regarding the homeless encampment formed next to the Integrated Care Hub.

In the report from city staff, five options are laid out for councillors to consider including sanctioning the encampment until November 15, sanctioning encampments in Belle Park or a new undisclosed location, or allowing no encampments on public property period.

Based on many of the encampment residents choosing that location due to its close proximity to the ICH, the report notes that locations in that vicinity would be the “most feasible and obvious”.

The costs of the encampment options presented are estimated to run from between $74,200-$209,800 over the course of a pilot.

City staff is also asking council to consider a number of other steps like overflow hotel rooms and the purchase of an additional five sleeping cabins to join the community currently occupying Centre 70, expected to move back to Portsmouth Olympic Harbour for the winter months.

The report suggests that a major difficulty in continuing to allow encampments in the city will be ensuring they are occupied by the city’s most vulnerable, and not acting as a lightning rod for people from outside of the city or with alternative housing options.

The report states that has shown to be an issue in Kingston.

“The intent of the pilot would be to accommodate people that are currently living in encampments and not to encourage people to leave their permanent housing in order to transition to encampments,” the report details.

“This situation, as well as people travelling from other cities to join encampments, have recently occurred in Kingston.”

Among other consultations, the report says 26 members of the unhouses community living in various areas in the city were surveyed.

Council received no shortage of feedback from members of the community, and will hear from a long list of delegates on Wednesday night.

While a number of ideas are to be presented that look to provide stopgap options for those living in encampments, some in the community were alarmed to see the enforcement measures being included in recommendations.

City staff have recommended that the encampment protocol be resumed as of June 30, and to reduce the necessary notice for eviction from 48 hours to 2 hours.

Staff are also recommending the creation of an anti-loitering by law, and other measures like a “shopping cart recovery fee” that costs $50, seemingly intended to reduce clutter.

Mutual Aid Katarokwi encouraged members of the community to stand up against these actions, and provided a letter template to send to councillors.

“We stand against this oppressive and discriminatory treatment of people who are unhoused, people who spend time on downtown streets,” Mutual Aid Katarokwi wrote in their post.

“Stop the war on the poor!”

While it was learned that Hackett Park in the Strathcona Park area has been considered as a potential location to place an encampment, a number of residents in that area spoke out against that idea.

That district’s councillor, Jeff McLaren, received a number of anti-encampment letters like the one from Clair and Peter Lasko.

“As this park is right next to the train station, this would be the first thing people see when people come to Kingston. What a terrible impression of the city this would give,” reads the letter from the Laskos.

“Strathcona Park is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Kingston which is occupied by many families. The encampment would attract crime, vermin and undesirables to the area.”

Wednesday’s special meeting will kick off at 6 PM.