Tent city at Victoria Park in Peterborough slowly came down on Tuesday morning.
On Friday, Peterborough County, which owns the park on Water Street, stated the park would close at 9 a.m. Tuesday and the 40 or more people who have been camping there since Canada Day would be ordered to leave or face fines for trespassing. The displaced began pitching tents after the Warming Room emergency shelter closed June 30.
Earlier this month, both the City of Peterborough and the county passed bylaws to ban camping in their parks.
At 7 a.m., there were still two dozen tents. Around 9 a.m., just under 20. Some moved just north on Water Street to the Emmanuel United Church property.
However, not Kevin Nicholson. As the rain fell, he dragged his tent along Water Street and pitched it on Peterborough City Hall property.
“The root of all evil,” he said. “They’re the ones who want us to move, so move on their doorstep.”
Nicholson, 56, says he has spent 40 years living in the Peterborough area. He says he lives on disability due to a degenerative disc disease in his spine. He was recently evicted from the house he was renting on Fairbairn Street for $550 month when the homeowner decided to renovate the home and bring in his family, he says.
“We all deserve to have affordable housing,” he said. “The old site of the Brock Mission sat empty for a year. There was no reason for it.”
PHOTO GALLERY (By Greg Davis/Global News Peterborough):
Nicholson says he isn’t concerned about receiving a ticket for pitching a tent at city hall, where he says security cameras can keep at eye on his property. He claims he has had items stolen from his tent at Victoria Park.
“If I’m given the opportunity to move before I get a ticket, I’ll move,” he said. “It’s not a big deal to have to move, I’ve been moving all my life. I just want a good place that’s safe. I’m just trying to do things that’s proper and safe.
“My safety is important. Sleeping in an unlocked tent is not safe. I just want a door I know I can lock and know I can go to sleep and wake up in the morning.”
Peterborough mayor Diane Therrien is currently on vacation, according to her office.
“Is the mayor going to lose (her) home while she’s on vacation? Am I going to lose my home while I’m on holiday? Yes I will,” said Nicholson.
Peterborough County forwarded all inquiries to the city. In an email to Global News Peterborough, Brendan Wedley, the city’s manager of communications, said over the last month there has been an average of about 30 shelter beds available each night.
“Each month, social services and community partner agencies help connect about 15 people who were homeless with housing,” he said. “The park will re-open when the encampment is gone and the park has been restored.”
Nicholson says the trespassing fines won’t deter everyone. By noontime, no bylaw or police officers were seen at the park issuing tickets.
Meanwhile, several dozen people gathered to help clean up at the park. Activist Rachelle Sauve of Food Not Bombs told a small crowd of supporters that the city needs to step up to find suitable solutions and improve access to services.
“We have a lot of work to try to convince this city to not just be OK with the solutions they’ve put forward,” she told the crowd. “We keep hearing over and over again this narrative of what I consider to be very simplistic math of the number heads to beds. ‘We have enough shelter beds and they should just shut up and take our options.’
“There isn’t actually access to a lot of the beds they’re talking about. So people don’t have places to put their belongings… We have to come up for some community solutions for that.”
The city has had outreach and support workers visiting tent city all last week offering housing and social service solutions for the displaced.
More to come.
WATCH: Not enough affordable housing in Peterborough