The City of Kingston has issued Trespass Notices to campers in Belle Park and the surrounding K&P trail less than a day after announcing an increase in available shelter beds throughout the city.
The collection of tents has been a a topic of debate since unhoused residents began to set up camp in the Belle Park area due to its close proximity to the life saving services offered by the Integrated Care Hub (ICH), and city council officially voted to reinstate the encampment protocol in June 2022.
As city staff return from their Christmas vacations this week, little time has been wasted issuing notice to campers that they’ll have to leave, giving them a transition period of up until January 11 at 5 PM before bylaw officers tear down remaining tents and structures.
“Our goal is to ensure the safe relocation of those staying in the encampment. We’re grateful for the ongoing work of our community partners to assist individuals in accessing services that will aid their transition,” says Curtis Smith, Director of Licensing & Enforcement Services in Friday’s release from the city.
On Thursday, the city sent out a press release highlighting more than 60 new drop-in and shelter beds as new spaces with Lionhearts, Dawn House, and St. Mary’s Church become available throughout the month of January.
In the encampment next to the ICH alone there’s roughly 70 unhoused residents, and Kingston still doesn’t have quite enough shelter space to give a bed to all 207 people experiencing homelessness as identified in 2021.
When the encampment protocol was reinstated in June, Executive Director of HomeBase Housing said that while there often is shelter space for those who want it, the issue remains that some of the population would simply rather be out in a tent than take the other options available to them.
“It’s a hard call, right? Is it better to have a crummy room where at least you can go in and lock the door and you have your own fridge, and stove, and bathroom versus living in a tent,” Greening said.
“Some people say they’d rather have the tent, other people would rather have the room.”
In June, Greening said he was concerned about a last minute scramble in November and December to shelter individuals who are camping out – a scramble that has instead been left to the new year.
He said the root of the problem continues to be that rental rates and incomes don’t measure up.
“The rental situation in the City of Kingston is terrible for persons with low income or with other support needs that have made housing in the past challenging,” Greening said.
In its Friday release, the City of Kingston says it has spent $1.1 million to support “transitional housing and services for people staying in City parks and other areas where risks to their health and safety are increased.”
Those experiencing homelessness looking for support or concerned about someone are encouraged to contact the Street Outreach Team at 613-542-6672, ext. 130.