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City looking to open Artillery Park as a drop-in day-service centre

Artillery Park. Photo by Tommy Vallier.

In sharing some information on the Belle Park encampment updates in advance of the special City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Jun. 23, 2020, the City of Kingston has announced it is looking to open Artillery Park as a drop-in centre.

The City had previously indicated the allowing the encampment for those who are homeless or in between housing during the pandemic was a temporary measure, and further extended the deadline for disbanding the encampment until July 7. Now, Lanie Hurdle, CAO for the City of Kingston, will present an update to Council at its next scheduled meeting, the City said in a press release on Friday, Jun. 19, 2020.

“We continue to work in collaboration with partner community agencies and the individuals camping at Belle Park to find solutions that meet their expressed needs by July 7,” Hurdle said in the statement.

The City indicated it is continuing to work with those currently living at Belle Park to find supported interim housing solution, and that the city is continuing to “offer shelter and drop-in day services at existing facilities as City shelters have ample capacity.”

Since the Council meeting held on Tuesday, Jun. 2, 2020, when the matter of the encampment was discussed the deadline for the relocating those there was extended, the City has been working with individuals at Belle Park, as well as community partners, to create and implement “an engagement and case management approach,” the City said. That approach has three main components, according to the City:

Improving short-term basic health and safety needs of the campers by providing “enhanced access to amenities and ongoing visits from the City and its partners,” including opening the Belle Park Clubhouse, increasing garbage collection, installing a sharps bin for needle collection, and other site improvements. “Regular visits are also occurring from Public Health, Kingston Fire and Rescue, Bylaw, Home Base Housing, Kingston Community Health Centres, Street Health, and many other agencies,” the City said.

Implementing an engagement strategy that “takes a trauma-informed case management approach to work with campers and community partners on individual solutions to transition out of the park.” This includes:

  • Engaging with partners and conducting weekly meeting with agencies to coordinate support for campers. Those partners include Home Base Housing, Addictions and Mental Health Services, HARS and Kingston Community Health Centres – Street Health, KFL&A Public Health and more, the City said.
  • Engaging with campers and conducting weekly meetings with “camper representatives to discuss engagement and case management approach with each camper over the upcoming weeks.” According to the City, City Staff have met with camper representatives on multiple occasions over the last weeks to propose and discuss engagement and case management approach and discuss other issues. Additionally, needs assessments with individuals at Belle Park willing to participate were completed on Thursday, Jun 11, 2020. A total of 25 needs assessments were completed, representing the majority of the individuals camping at Belle Park, the City said.
  • Engaging the community by offering public, on-location updates at Belle Park on Monday afternoons from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The next update will be Monday, June 22, 2020, the City said. This announcement is the first time Kingstonist has heard of these on-location updates.

Securing additional housing solutions for campers for Tuesday, Jul. 7, 2020, the deadline for all campers to relocated from Belle Park These include:

  • A drop-in centre: According to the City, City Staff have been working with partners to develop an interim solution for a cooling/drop-in centre that would provide wrap around services for clients. “Building on the experiences of the warming centre, partners have laid out a plan for a drop in centre operation that would cover about 14 hours per day with complementary services such as consumption and treatment services, registered nurses support, as well as storage options,” the City said. “Based on this assessment and the community partners’ needs, it was identified that Artillery Park would be an appropriate location to deliver this service on an interim basis. Artillery Park is not recommended to be open for recreation purpose until larger gatherings are permitted by provincial regulations and is usually open as a cooling centre to the general public during extreme summer heat. Partners understand that a permanent location would be required to continue to provide this service after the pilot period.”
  • Camping: As camp grounds are re-opening, the City indicated it will work with individuals that wish to relocate to a formal campground to ensure that they have appropriate equipment, such as tents and sleeping bags, as well as some support from Street Outreach.
  • Storage: The City has indicated it will provide temporary storage space for individuals to store any belonging should they require storage in order to access other services.
  • Shelters: Shelter services will still be offered and available to people who may choose to use this service.
  • Accommodations: The City said it and its partners will continue to work with individuals to secure permanent housing for individuals looking for this type accommodations, understanding that initial financial support would be provided but ongoing rent would be covered through Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program.

Kingstonist will provide more information following the update to Council from CAO Hurdle on Tuesday, Jun. 23, 2020.

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