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City to dismantle structures in Belle Park funded by local donations on eviction day

Despite local fundraising efforts, the city says it will be dismantling any structures built on Belle Park on July 31, when the campers will be evicted. Global News

The city has made it clear that wooden structures being erected at Belle Park, the current homeless camp in Kingston, will be torn down.

Last Monday, a GoFundMe page was set up to raise funds to build “box-like structures that can fit 7-9 people,” at the park, despite the city’s eviction date of July 31.

The page was organized by Tabassum Pasha, who said she did not have time to speak on the matter until later in the week.

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“According to the community, this may result in the city letting them stay for longer as these structures will make it harder for the city to come and evict them by brute force, to which the city will resort,” the GoFundMe page wrote.

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In under a week, the GoFundMe reached its $1,500 goal.

One such structure was already built on the municipal lot, which has been the home of a growing tent city throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the spring and summer, other eviction deadlines were postponed, but the city has held firm to its July 31 deadline.

Despite not having permanent accommodation options available for all of the Belle Park campers, the city has organized a shelter at Artillery Park, which will be running 24/7 starting the same day as the eviction. It will offer services like meals, wellness programs and basic life-skill workshops.

Click to play video: 'Belle Park encampment extended to July 31'
Belle Park encampment extended to July 31

Currently, the shelter is only open on weekdays and offers services like washrooms, showers, a mental health and addictions nurse, power, television and Wi-Fi.

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According to a city news release, as of Saturday, 12 of the 40 or so Belle Park campers have been housed permanently.

The city has also indicated interest in creating supportive housing at the current Kingston Youth Shelter, but these are more long-term plans.

Read more: City of Kingston considers supportive housing options for Belle Park campers

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In the meantime, the city says it is aware of the fundraising efforts for the wood structures and announced it will be dismantling them on July 31.

“The city acknowledges members of the public would like to assist in some way and encourage people to donate to the United Way which supports multiple organizations in Kingston, including those assisting people throughout Kingston’s vulnerable population,” the city said Saturday.

The city also noted that on eviction day, temporary power afforded to the campers will be disconnected, but washrooms and the on-site clubhouse will remain open as normal during the summer months.

The city says it has been receiving complaints about alleged acts of vandalism at the park, and is hoping that Friday’s eviction will remedy these issues.

“The city continues to deal with acts of vandalism to the clubhouse, including broken toilets, mirrors, light bulbs, drywall and doors being kicked in, and forced entry into areas of the clubhouse that are off-limits. There’s also been ongoing damage to portable washrooms that were installed several weeks ago for campers.”

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