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Kingston, Ont. city council votes to end sleeping cabin project

Click to play video: 'Kingston councilors vote to end sleeping cabin project'
Kingston councilors vote to end sleeping cabin project
Last night, in a 10-2 vote, Kingston City Council made the decision to officially wind down the ambitious COVID-19-era pilot project designed to assist people off the streets – Nov 8, 2023

It’s a quiet day at Kingston, Ont.’s, Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, the current home of the city’s 17 sleeping cabins. The structures have been picked up and moved twice a year, spending winters at the harbour and summers at the Centre 70 arena parking lot.

But this spring, instead of moving again, the entire program will end.

“You know, I feel awful for the people that asked us to build this kind of model, for the people that have been waiting to get into the cabins,” Our Livable Solutions Executive Director Chrystal Wilson said.

Councillor Brandon Tozzo voted against the abrupt wind-down of the program as he feels they should phase it out more slowly.

“I’m really worried about people falling back into homelessness,” Tozzo said.

Cabin residents will have until the end of March of 2024 to find alternative accommodations. Cabin resident Marsha Wiggins tells Global News she understands some of the reasoning behind council’s decision, but argues the program would have cost a lot less to run if they stayed in one location.

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“A lot of the costs are moving us back and forth. You’ve gotta pay for hotels and all these other things and I’m sure these trucks and cranes aren’t cheap to bring us back and forth,” Wiggins said.

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But the city says it was never about the money, nor was it supposed to be a permanent solution to the city’s homeless crisis.

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“We were in the middle of the pandemic. There were limitations at the time in terms of shelter spaces and the amount of space per individual we needed to provide,” City of Kingston CAO, Lanie Hurdle said.

“Quite frankly, I think two years ago that was the better option,” Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson added.

The city’s mayor agrees the project has served its purpose, and points to several other programs either in the works or already up and running that aim to deliver catered services to the city’s unhoused while at the same time getting them off the streets.

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“Being able to be home and in a renovated unit with more supportive housing options that we have, I think the council was comfortable that this was the solution we want to pursue,” Paterson said.

Back at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, sleeping cabin residents, who are already preparing for the approach of winter, now will have to try to figure out where to go once the snow melts and the program wraps up.

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