A demonstration in solidarity with Kingston’s homeless took place outside City Hall Tuesday evening.
Starting at 6:30 p.m. The Kingston District Labour Council (KDLC), the Katarokwi (Kingston) Union of Tenants and other concerned citizens said they were protesting the eviction of people living in Belle Park, as well as the lack of affordable housing in Kingston.
Chris Snooks of KDLC, a co-organizer for the event, said he spent a lot of time working with Kingston’s homeless this summer. He participated in a pancake breakfast hosted for residents of the Belle Park encampment, delivered pizzas to people on the street, was present during the camp eviction, and said generally just lent his ear to their concerns.
“I think that anybody who worked with them got the same feeling,” he said. “This could be any of us.”
Snooks reported that the average rent for an apartment in Kingston is now $1350. “If you’re working minimum for wage, 40-hours per week, to rent an apartment in Kingston is 90 per cent of your pay,” he said. He noted that single seniors collecting Old Age Security and CPP are in a similar predicament.
“Right now any seniors or single people working at minimum wage, they’re only one paycheck away from being homeless,” he said. “I’m even hearing from people that I work with in the federal government, employees that are making $20 or $25 per hour, that are a single parent with a couple kids. They’re saying that they’re one paycheque away from losing everything.”
Snooks said he would like to the City working more actively with the federal and provincial governments to enforce more rent controls for low-income people.
He also said he is disappointed to see people evicted from Belle Park now living in other outdoor parts of the City. Council voted to end legal camping at Belle Park on Tuesday, Jul. 7, 2020, where a City-supported encampment operated from mid-April to July 31, 2020.
“We wont even put up a high-rise in Kingston but we’ll allow the homeless to sleep on the front lawn of a city-owned building?” Snooks said.
Council addressing housing & homelessness issues at concurrent meeting
The protest coincides with a City Council meeting packed with items pertaining to homelessness and housing initiatives.
Council voted to extend the occupancy of the Integrated Care Hub at Artillery Park by one month; on next steps in an affordable housing development at 1316-1318 Princess St; and, heard a motion from City Councillor Mary Rita Holland regarding bylaw enforcement towards illegal camping in the city.
“When I picked the time for this rally I based it on the City Council meeting coming up,” Snooks said. “I did not know what was on the council agenda, but it worked out perfectly.”
The protesters organized a five minute delegation at the virtual City Council meeting, which the called in from the site of the protest. Ivan Stoiljkovic spoke on behalf of the group, urging council to reword a proposal for an affordable housing development at 1316-1318 Princess St, to ensure all units were rent-geared-to-income. The encouraging cheers of the crowd could be heard on his call, bringing the energy of the protest directly into the City Council meeting.
Approximately 110 people attended the protest.