Letter: Daytime sheltering prohibition at encampment a ‘daily eviction of homes’

A section of the encampment at Belle Park, as seen on the morning of Thursday, Mar. 14, 2024, when the City of Kingston held a press conference at the park to announce it would begin enforcement of a prohibition on daytime camping in public parks the first week of April 2024. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

Editorial note: The following is a submitted open letter, which was sent to Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, Kingston City Council, City of Kingston CAO Lanie Hurdle, Kingston Fire and Rescue Chief Monique Belair, City Commissioner Jennifer Campbell (Community Services), City Commissioner Brad Joyce (Infrastructure, Transportation and Emergency Services), Kingston Police Chief Scott Fraser, Kingston Bylaw Enforcement, and members of the media. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.


I am a citizen of Kingston who lives on Montreal Street and volunteers five to seven days per week, for two or three hours per day, at the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) with my colleague Brigit Smith.

In our role, at this grassroots level, we support the ICH shelter residents, substance users at the Consumption Treatment Services (CTS), encampment residents at Belle Park, and many unhoused in the community who have learned about the kindness, warmth and support we provide to the homeless.

As background, one of our business clients donated $10,000 to purchase a golf cart for the CTS and ICH staff to provide swift responses to overdoses, ultimately saving lives. We set up a prepaid account at BnB Pharmacy to support fulfillment of prescriptions, which we top up on a monthly basis. We raised over $12,000 this past winter to provide tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags, pillows, hygiene products, winter coats, boots, hats, gloves, running shoes, backpacks, and warm clothing. We have built relationships with businesses in the community who support our efforts to take care of our homeless. We often purchase and donate coffee, donuts and muffins so our unhoused feel, in some small way, that we care about their well-being. We process all incoming donations. We take care of everyone with respect and dignity and we are honoured to serve them. They are warm, friendly, appreciative, and respectful in all interactions. We do not deny the reality of challenges, as we see them every day, however one would think the threat to life would include concern for fires and freezing to death. We do not feel your decision is taking all complex matters into account. We feel uniquely qualified to share our perspective.

The announcement of the City of Kingston to prohibit day use and evict our encampment homes on a daily basis, effective April 2, 2024, simply must not go forward.

We are in the midst of a national housing, economic, substance use and drug poisoning crisis. This is our reality. It is not going away. Delegations have approached Council to talk about substance use in our schools at the elementary and secondary levels. Poverty and homelessness are growing. This is evident in the statistics authored by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. These may be the most complex times we will face in our lifetime and as citizens we can not condone the short-sighted and thoughtless approach of daily prohibition and daily eviction of homes. Asking our vulnerable residents — who are often medically ill with complex mental illness and/or substance use, and many [who are] fragile [and] elderly — to pack up their homes and belongings daily is inhumane. We must have more scope than knowing we will be complicit in the death of our vulnerable citizens, if we push them further into the woods and isolation, as Justine McIsaac, an ICH staff member, stated at your council meeting in January 2023.

Moreover, the 39-page report from the Office of the Federal Housing Advocate, Upholding dignity and human rights: the Federal Housing Advocate’s review of homeless encampments – Final report, authored by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (February 2024), clearly indicates the need for the City of Kingston to comply. It is a human right to receive adequate housing and yet you are proposing we dismantle the only home they have on a daily basis, destroying the little dignity they have. These are their homes, and it is incumbent upon us to improve their homes, not dismantle them. Our citizens in Belle Park are already a community in crisis, a traumatized and disadvantaged population. We have a group of seniors who depend on us to listen to their stories and memories and be present for their needs. Many are quite sick and dropped off from the hospital in various states where continued active care is required. We also provide walkers, canes and wheelchairs. It is our norm. How can we respect and support the decision of the City when you do not seem to understand the complex matters of these very important citizens? We need to collaborate to find common ground.

Can you imagine what will happen to our emergency departments when we can no longer administer naloxone in Belle Park? The already overburdened Hotel Dieu and Kingston General Hospitals will now be providing overdose support because our residents have moved further away from their support at the CTS and ICH. We serve hundreds of overdoses. These overdoses will land squarely at an emergency department, along with the paramedics and police who must remain present until the emergency department can serve those who have overdosed.

Our residents will find places to live in their tents further away from the ICH. Tent encampments will not cease to exist with your dismantling strategy. Recently, you took the tent of a resident, and this particular resident continues to live at Belle Park under a tarp. You accomplished nothing but putting this resident further into crisis. This is their community, it is their home, their tents are their homes. Let that sink in: tents are the best we have provided them. This eviction will push them further into crisis, despair and desperation and, as Justine stated, result in death.

It is our understanding that a resolution from Council is required to move forward with your April 2 directive and we did not find this resolution. Can you please advise us as to how this decision was made, as we understand this directive to be illegitimate.

Please let us work with our community, fire department, police and bylaw to educate and support our residents. Our outdoor engagement team has worked very hard to collaborate with citizens, police and fire and, we believe, with a dedicated team, we can build understanding and find common ground. We are inviting the community to volunteer with us. Give us a chance to build relationships. Please reconsider your decision and work with us to support our community while we build a made-in-Kingston strategy together. On a strategic level, we have a made in Kingston plan to collaborate with the private sector and all levels of government to lift Kingston as the innovative and dynamic city it is.

Please reconsider and work with us toward a sustainable solution.

Sincerely,

Pamela Gray and Brigit Smith
Kingston residents


Share your views! Submit a Letter to the Editor or an Op/Ed article to Kingstonist’s Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

6 thoughts on “Letter: Daytime sheltering prohibition at encampment a ‘daily eviction of homes’

  • What a powerful and compassionate letter. One wonders how our fellow citizens in Kingston and across Canada have fallen victim to the drug culture and its terrible costs in lives lost and lives ruined.

  • What purpose is to be served by moving the population out every day?

    • Our of sight out of mind ….city policy ?? . Sad this is the best city council can come up with

  • Thank you for this letter. It provides a compelling and powerful case for why the Daytime Sheltering Prohibition is deeply inhumane and should not go forward. I believe that Kingstonians care about all of our citizens, particularly the most vulnerable. We can and should do better.

  • Our council should reflect on the failure of the tiny homes project ( at an exuberant cost) and accommodate the homeless in their chosen space, namely Bell Park.
    The city should devote Bell Park as a safe place for the people in need!
    Thank you to the Volunteers and everyone in our community who contributes to the wellbeing of all.

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