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City: July 7 not an eviction date for Belle Park encampment

The encampment at Belle Park as Mayor Bryan Paterson and Dr. Keiran Moore visited the park and spoke with those living there on Thursday, May 28, 2020. Photo by Samantha Butler Hassan.

After months of people camping at Belle Park and the City of Kingston indicating the homeless encampment was “very temporary,” the City is now clarifying that today, Tuesday, Jul. 7, 2020, is not an eviction date for those living in the park.

“We would like to clarify that July 7, 2020 is not an eviction date,” Robert Hosier, a Communications Officer for the City of Kingston said in an email to Kingstonist.

Hosier’s email was in response to a request for information on what was being done on Tuesday, Jul. 7, 2020, the deadline which was extended by City Council on Tuesday, Jun. 6, 2020. Kingstonist had requested to know if people were actively being moved out of the park, and, if so, where to. We had additionally asked for information on where those who have indicated they would like to remain camping outdoors would be moved to.

“On June 23, 2020, Council voted to waive the enforcement and application of the Parks By-Law until July 7, 2020 to permit those who have erected shelters at Belle Park to continue to camp on the property while the City implements interim and long-term supports to meet the unique needs of the campers in the context of the current pandemic. We remain committed to continuing to work with campers on transitioning from Belle Park to more suitable locations. This work will continue on and after July 7,” Hosier explained.

“The City and its community partners continue to visit individuals at Belle Park daily to ensure their well-being and to continue to offer them access to services and supports such as shelter, housing first case management supports and health care supports. There have been approximately eight individuals from the Belle Park encampment who have been able to obtain housing and we continue to work closely with individuals to help them stabilize, obtain and maintain housing supports.”

City Council will be discussing the Belle Park encampment at their meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Jul. 7, 2020, which begins at 7 p.m. A new motion, moved by Councillor Rob Hutchison, will request Council reconsider the resolution it had previously approved on Tuesday, Jun. 2, 2020, which reads:

“That Council waive By-Law Number 2009-76, ‘A By-Law to Provide for the Regulation Use of Parks and Recreation Facilities of the Corporation of the City of Kingston’, over the next month, until July 7, 2020 only at Belle Park, to provide staff time to consult with Street Health Centre, HARS, AMHS, Home Base Housing and other community partners to communicate with each individual at Belle Park to identify priorities and plans for interim housing options and for long-term suitable supportive housing, using in-depth community consultation with the target of trauma informed, wrap around care for people experiencing homelessness, in order to permit a long transition period for campers currently located at Belle Park; and That Council delegate authority to the Chief Administrative Officer or designated staff to make use of other properties or partnerships on a temporary basis, should it be required, in order to implement the transition plan for campers at Belle Park.”

It is expected Council will discuss the matter and ask questions of City Staff regarding any developments that have occurred since then and next steps moving forward.

“We are engaging with Council to provide a clear picture of interim solutions such as the Artillery Park Drop-In Centre to support Council’s decision-making… regarding the Belle Park camp situation,” Hosier said, noting that the City will provide updates following the meeting.

Kingstonist will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as more information becomes available.

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