RELEASE — Today, Belle Park Community residents, supporting community organizations and advocacy groups (including Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston, MAKK), and local Kingston community members will rally at Belle Park, at 6:30pm, to send a message to the city government. The crowd will be rallying behind Belle Park residents’ right to stay in the park un-evicted until housing deemed more sufficient by the residents becomes available.
“Where else are we supposed to go?” asks Chrissy Bedard, a Belle Park resident and mother who is waiting for her new housing to become available after covid restrictions change. “Because the city has not dealt with making sure there is housing available during the pandemic,” says Bedard, “for many of the people here,there is literally nowhere else for us to go.”
Advocates have pointed out that the city’s proposed cooling centre is an addition, not an alternative to Belle Park, because it is not housing.
This rally is being held on the date of a potential eviction, and is timed to occur during the Kingston City Council meeting at which City councillors have the opportunity to suspend evictions at Belle Park indefinitely, thereby recognizing residents’ rights to determine their own housing needs and providing time for the City and other housing supports to identify long-term housing options that support the self-identified needs of Belle Park residents.
“We need to support our unhoused neighbours and show we are a just, accountable and vibrant community based on dignity, respect and mutual care for all, especially to marginalized folks here,” says Natasha Stirrett, an organizer with Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston (MAKK), a new community that formed in March to address community needs arising from the pandemic.
“A no eviction policy is in line with the United Nations National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada, released in April 2020,” says Jeremy Milloy, another MAKK organizer. “It is also consistent with what certain other municipalities, including London Ontario, have done to support their homeless residents during the COVID-19 crisis,” he says.
The rally is intended to physically support Belle Park Residents, some of whom are refusing to leave, regardless of what the city says.
“We are standing together to protect our home, which is Belle Park right now,” says Nathan Rosevear, who has been living at the park since the city told them to set up there in April.
“I don’t think either community in this city, or the cops themselves, are really going to be okay with the idea that the city is going to make the police, come in and actually remove all these people, some of us have our dogs and all our things with us, from this camp where the city told us to set up in the first place,” says Rosevear.
The Rally was planned to coincide with tonight’s City meeting at which they will presumably revisit the situation at Belle Park and consider whether or not to extend the bylaw suspension against camping on City property.
Rally organizers have called on City Council to suspend evictions indefinitely while City staff and community partners work with Belle Park residents to identify long term sustainable housing solutions that meet the self-identified needs of the residents.
Release: Mutual Aid Katarokwi/Kingston