RELEASE — July 7th marks the deadline by which City Council will revisit the presence of residents at the Belle Park encampment. For the last month, City staff and partner organizations have been working to perform a needs assessment and to provide alternate housing for Belle Park residents, however as of June 29th, very little was known about what these options would be, or about whether evictions would be allowed to continue on July 7th as previously planned, causing a significant amount of anxiety among Belle Park residents.
The City has worked with HIV/AIDS Regional Services (HARS) and Street Health Centre to develop plans for a low barrier ‘cooling’ center at Artillery Park, however at a meeting Monday evening, eight days from the deadline, City staff were not able to say how many people could be accommodated, what the rules would be, what would happen if a COVID-19 outbreak were to occur and what would happen to residents’ belongings. A similar low barrier ‘warming’ center operated this past Winter and was plagued with substantial concerns related to the size of the space, the tense environment, random acts of violence and the fact it was only intended to be accessed by unhoused folks for short intervals (a few hours) at a time and was closed during the day.
For their part, many residents felt that a cooling center would not be able to meet their needs. Several identified that Belle Park was their interim housing of choice while waiting for permanent housing. One resident, Nathan, said that he “doubted it would be ready in time” and was worried about the quality of services, and that at this point, there are “no problems here in the camp”. Others said that if they were forced to leave Belle Park, rather than move into an institutional setting, they would retreat into the woods, where they felt they would be at increased risk of physical or sexual violence as well as theft. Still others would likely end up in various places around the city from which they have been forcibly removed, losing all their belongings, in the past.
Finally, community organizations as well as residents identified a sense of community and community support that has emerged at Belle Park. Peter, a resident at Belle Park, said on Thursday:
“We’ve made a home, a family. This is my family.” Nicole, another resident described the situation as: “We are all sisters and brothers here”.
Residents have organized themselves into a peaceful community, community agencies have ready access to those in need, and Belle Park provides easy access to Public Health officials, City staff, and other agencies providing services and monitoring health conditions in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.
City Council meets on July 7th at which time they will presumably revisit the situation at Belle Park and consider whether or not to extend the bylaw suspension against camping on City property. We call 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.
A rally in solidarity with Belle Park residents is planned for July 7th at 6:30pm to coincide with the city council meeting and to support the call for NO EVICTIONS. For more information visit
Release: Mutual Aid Katarokwi/Kingston