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Kingston’s Belle Park homeless encampment continues to grow

Homeless camp grows in Kingston
WATCH: The homeless camp on Montreal St. in Kingston has grown since Monday. New campers tell Global News that they left isolation centres in the city to join the group at Belle Park.

A structure made of plywood and tarps, along with several large camping tents, can now be seen near the entrance of Belle Park in Kingston, Ont.

Over a dozen people are calling the east end park home after many say they left the city’s isolation centres due to strict rules.

“It was very restrictive. We were allowed cigarettes every two hours, and we had to stay in our rooms, and I couldn’t do it. I was waking up every morning with a nightmare,” said Barbara Robinson, one of the newest members of the camp.

READ MORE: Kingston set to open 2 self-isolation centres: ‘We need a place for our city’s most vulnerable’

On Monday, Global News was given a tour inside the camp by Nathan Rosevear, a Kingston local who has called Belle Park home for over a week.

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“I was told to take down my tent, so I started building this [new structure] out of the wood I used as a floor,” said Rosevear.

On March 30, the Kingston Self-Isolation Centre (KSIC), operated by the local addiction and mental health service, began a self-isolation centre for those without a safe space to isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its facility is the vacant Fairfield Manor west senior home.

Homeless camp forms in Kingston’s Belle Park
Homeless camp forms in Kingston’s Belle Park

On the other side of town, at Fairfield Manor east, a physical distancing centre for the city’s homeless population was established and has been running ever since.

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According to the City of Kingston, AMHS-KFLA has received 10 referrals to support individuals experiencing homelessness to self-isolate at Fairfield Manor west.

The centre can support up to 32 individuals. The city says Fairfield Manor east, where many of the Belle Park campers say they were staying, has seen around 50 people.

READ MORE: Homeless resident in Kingston speaks out about lack of warming centres

This week, addiction and mental health services joined forces with Home Base Housing to launch street outreach teams to help people navigate through the pandemic, many of whom live on the streets.

“I come down here [Belle Park] twice a day to check up on everybody, provide food, tell them to keep it tidy,” said Ryan Rolfe, the street outreach coordinator.

Rolfe told Global News that finding those living in the encampment a place to live is his main objective, but with the pandemic, it has been challenging to secure viewings.

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Fortunately for Rolfe and the camp, the City of Kingston announced on Monday that the Belle Park campers are permitted to stay until further notice.

“The community has been great. They bring Tim Hortons coffee and donuts and other food. I really appreciate it,” said Robinson.