City of Kingston plans for end of moratorium on Encampment Protocol

The encampment adjacent to the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) in the Belle Park and K&P Trail areas in January 2023. Photo by Penny Cadue/Kingstonist.

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, Kingston City Council voted 8-5 in favour of a moratorium on the City’s Encampment Protocol, specifically for the Belle Park and K&P Trail areas occupied by an encampment adjacent to the Integrated Care Hub (ICH).

On Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2023, that moratorium comes to an end.

What does that mean for people living in the encampment? Lanie Hurdle, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the City of Kingston, spoke with Kingstonist about next steps.

First, Hurdle pointed out that the number of people living in the encampment – which at one point reached 50 or more – has dwindled over the past two months. While some encampment residents have taken advantage of shelter accommodations provided by the City or other partnering agencies, it may not appear that way to travellers along Montreal Street. That’s because some of those people are using shelters only at night and then returning to the encampment during the day, Hurdle explained. Still others have opted to participate in available shelter or housing programs and have left the encampment entirely. When City of Kingston staff last visited the encampment, there were about 20 people living there, according to Hurdle.

Hurdle also pointed to the list of “low barrier shelter options” the City says it has made available to people living at the encampment, which was published on Wednesday, Mar. 15, 2023. It should be noted that the recently published list does not include any shelter or housing support options that were not available as of the last Kingstonist article on this matter; the information in that article took over a month for Kingstonist to obtain from the City and Public Health. However, the list does include services, such as storage services, reduced transit rates, and others, which have been made available to people who may be seeking shelter or between housing.

“Like we’ve said, I think, many times… we have been working with partners, and we’ve been working already to help relocate a number of people, because we have obviously noticed a decrease in the number of people residing in encampment since January,” Hurdle said.

So what about people who have not moved on from the encampment? The CAO said there are plans in the works.

“From a [City] staff perspective, we have a responsibility to follow Council direction. And the encampment protocol under all other circumstances applies. It’s not like we’re reintroducing it; it applies unless we’re directed not to apply it,” she said, the latter part referring to the fact the moratorium on the Protocol – or pause on evictions, as it’s been referred to – only ever applied to the encampment near Belle Park and the ICH, as per Council’s direction.

“Right now, the timeframe that Council has provided us is March 21. So if Council doesn’t provide a different direction, from a staff perspective, we have a responsibility to follow that direction, reinitiating our efforts and our work.”

While the moratorium on the Encampment Protocol at the site expires on March 21, that does not necessarily mean that City staff will be out at the encampment on that date attempting to move people out, Hurdle said. However, first steps to do so are in the works.

“We will be, at some point, issuing trespass notices,” she said.

“We will be following up shortly after the 21st to provide notices and to continue the efforts to help relocate people to services that may be appropriate for them, recognizing that there could be, in some cases, people that are not necessarily willing to accept services.”

Hurdle was quick to point out that the City did not use physical force to remove people from the previous Belle Park encampment in 2020.

“We did not physically remove anyone, we did not use physical force… and it’s definitely not the approach that we are going to use this time around,” she said, noting that she wants to make it clear that time will pass after trespass notices are issued; the City will not be going into the encampment on March 21 and pushing out everyone who lives there.

“We know this may take a bit of time, we understand that, but we will work with people to help them relocate,” she said. “We’re going to be working through relocations, [and that is] going to take some additional time, with people and partners to help do that.”

Hurdle did say that the City will start to “clean up the site a bit,” adding that some people who have left the encampment entirely left behind belongings and refuse.

“So we are going to start to clean up some of those things. There’s no question about that. Some things will be put in storage, and some things, if we can’t track down an owner or if it’s something that really cannot have any use, we would probably dispose of. But things like tents, those types of things, we will look to put those in storage.”

People who may have items put into storage can find the number to contact regarding the storage program on the City’s list of shelters and services published on Wednesday, which will be distributed to everyone living at the encampment, she said.

More information on housing and homelessness from the City of Kingston can be read on the City’s website.

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