Friday, July 19, 2024
HomeHousingCouncil votes in favour of one more move for sleeping cabins

Council votes in favour of one more move for sleeping cabins

Kingston City Council voted in favour of supporting relocation of sleeping cabins to the property of Crossroads United Church, in what is planned to be the final move for the cabins to a more permanent home.

While the project looked to be nearing its end after several moves around the City of Kingston, the option for a long-term location in “Crossroads Village”, and contributions from members of the private sector have helped to give it new life.

In November of 2023, council voted to wind down the sleeping cabins program run by Our Livable Solutions (OLS), and while that decision was reaffirmed in April, OLS was given until the end of September to find privately owned land where the cabins could be placed.

On Tuesday, council considered two options for the sleeping cabins: continuing to wind down the program and selling the cabins due to “insufficient information” within the proposal by OLS, or winding down the program but supporting OLS in a move to Crossroads United Church while providing up to $350,000 for capital development costs.

Crossroads United Church was previously approached by OLS as a potential host, but they didn’t feel at the time they could accommodate what was needed by residents of the sleeping cabin.

Now with a community module building with showers and other services, and 24/7 on site staff being part of the plan, Crossroads United Church has agreed to lease the land for $1 a year and expect that the church won’t really be impacted at all.

Allan Baer, a representative of the church, spoke to council on Tuesday and said while it’s not necessarily a permanent solution, the church can provide term and stability that this project has never experienced before.

He says stepping in and providing land for this project is also a way for the church and congregation to demonstrate their faith and put it into practice.

“This isn’t an issue of financial gain for the church,” Baer said.

“It is, however, a way of putting our faith into practice. An important part of our Christian faith is a vision of social justice where security and well-being are available for all.”

A number of delegations on Tuesday night spoke in favour of the cabins, including real estate agent Joel Thompson from Agora Group of Companies Corp. – the company that will be building the modular hub in Crossroads Village.

Thompson said Agora would pledge $10,000 from the sale of every garden suite, custom home or renovation done by the company – estimating the company will be donating roughly $10 million per year to housing projects including Crossroads Village.

Another delegate, Judith Gould, says she’s already been a contributor to this project, and says that the City of Kingston didn’t make clear at the time of donation that it could be cancelled altogether.

“In January, 2022 I donated $100,000 to the City of Kingston through the United Way, it was for the purchase of six of the sleeping cabins,” Gould said.

“It was my understanding that this was not a temporary project, and in deciding to make the donation – when I met with city staff – they didn’t really express that to me.”

Ultimately City Council voted 12-1 in favour of supporting the move, with Councillor Jeff McLaren being the sole dissenting vote among council.

Chrystal Wilson, the Director of OLS, said she’s glad council supported their vision and they already feel like they’re surrounded by supportive neighbours at this new site.

She says alongside Crossroads United Church they anticipate making the village of sleeping cabins something of a community hub, and endearing the village to neighbours.

“The plans we have with Crossroads United Church to really develop that whole, not just our spot, but the whole kind of area into a community center,” Wilson said.

“And then we’re planning on running educational events and helping the neighbors out with some of the challenges that they’ve expressed in our public meetings.”

Wilson said some of those challenges include concerns about paraphernalia and encampments in the area, and she thinks staff and residents of Crossroads Village can help address those concerns as well as taking the lead on establishing a community garden on site.

The city will no longer be supporting the operational costs of the sleeping cabins, and OLS will be holding a fundraising campaign as well as relying on private donors to cover their operating budget of roughly $500,000 per year – most of which is spent on payrolling 24/7 support on site.

According to Wilson, it’s the closest thing to supportive housing the city has right now.

“Having staff 24/7 means that if our residents just can’t sleep and need somebody to talk to, there’s somebody there to talk to them,” Wilson said.

“There’s lots of good reasons to have staff 24/7, and so the majority of that budget is just staffing.”

Wilson says there are already private donors waiting and ready to contribute who were simply waiting for the green light from the city on Tuesday night.

The city has granted emergency housing zoning for the site, and OLS is hoping to submit a planning application by the end of this week while concurrently establishing a lease agreement with Crossroads United Church.

The residents have to be moved into the new site by the end of September, but OLS is aiming for a date closer to the start of the month.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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