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Questions arise on eviction protocol for homeless in Victoria Park in Peterborough

Questions arise on eviction process for homeless in Victoria Park
Questions are rising surrounding the protocol that the City of Peterborough will be using to evict the homeless residing at Victoria Park.

Questions are being raised about how Peterborough County and the City of Peterborough are planning to evict the homeless people who will still be occupying Victoria Park after their time runs out on Tuesday.

The homeless people were given notice by the city and county on Aug. 23 to clear out the park by 9 a.m. on Aug. 27.

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Those remaining in the park after that, according to the notice, are considered trespassing and could be liable to a fine of up to $10,000.

The city did not specify the exact means they will use to enforce the bylaw prohibiting tenting in public parks. Victoria Park is owned by the County.

“I’m not gonna speculate,” said Brendan Wedley, manager of communication services at Peterborough city hall. “The intention is, people will comply with the notice and the bylaws.”

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Still, many of those at the park, and those advocating for them, are bracing for the worst.

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“We’re not quite sure how the city is going to proceed,” said Rachelle Sauvé, a local activist who’s been advocating for the homeless at Victoria Park for some time.

“And so, we are hoping that police and the city will act in ways that honor the truth that people here are terrified. They have no place to go. In many cases, there is no housing for them to be found.”

The number of available shelter beds one day before the closure of Victoria Park is nine: Two at the Brock Mission, one at Cameron House, and six spots at the Yes Shelter for Youth and Families (four for youth males and two for a small family).

Since that number is not nearly enough to house the over 40 people living in the park, Dr. Steven Palmer, who’s been a regular volunteer at One Roof Community Centre and The Warming Room, says he no longer has faith in a previous statement the mayor made.

WATCH (Aug. 14, 2019): Peterborough County approves bylaw to prohibit camping in its parks within the city limits

Peterborough County approves bylaw to prohibit camping in its parks within the city limits
Peterborough County approves bylaw to prohibit camping in its parks within the city limits

“Two weeks ago, at a public meeting held at the library, I asked the mayor, ‘Do you now plan on evicting the campers?’ The mayor responded quite clearly,” said Palmer. “Her response was: ‘We do not plan on evicting any campers until there is suitable housing found’ … It is crazy when people’s income doesn’t even come in till the end of the month, and they don’t have first and last months’ rent for an apartment. There are nine beds for up to 50 or so that are camping. Where is the humanity in all of this, mayor?”

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Global News Peterborough asked for a comment from the mayor regarding Palmer’s claims but got a statement from the city instead.

“I think you’d need to look at the mayor’s statements on that,” said Wedley. “The mayor has posted public statements on that, you can talk to the mayor specifically or look at her statement that she issued on that.”