The City of Kingston said some of their bylaw officers mistakenly delivered eviction notices to campers who had moved into the interior of Belle Park on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, a Twitter account focused on preventing campers at Belle Park from being evicted posted a written eviction notice they said was given to a camper at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, giving them just two hours to vacate the park.
In an emailed statement, Kingston CAO Lanie Hurdle said those notices were a mistake, and that bylaw officers were meant to ask campers to move off of the grassy section of the park behind the original camp.
“The intent today was to verbally ask campers that are on the contaminated land to relocate to the front of the park. This is for camper health and safety,” Hurdle said.
One of the campers, Sylvia Clarke, said a group of people at Belle Park moved away from the parking lot because it was becoming too crowded.
“If we all bundle up in this spot, we’ll be too close together, we don’t have our own space. We’re gonna get into physical fights. It happens a lot,” Clarke said.
Clarke said she’s found both community and safety by living at Belle Park, and is worried because she feels the city doesn’t have appropriate accommodations for her and others once the eviction date hits on July 31.
“That’s where I live right now. That’s my home. It might belong to the city but so does almost every other property here,” she said.
“We have nowhere else to go.”
The city has previously said it will not be forcibly removing anyone come Friday, and will work with individuals to rehouse them, but they will be taking down any structures created on the lot starting July 31.
The city said over the weekend that 12 of the 40 or so campers have already been permanently housed, and that a shelter set up at Artillery Park is meant to be a short-term solution for those currently living at the Belle Park encampment.
As for the notices handed to campers on Tuesday, Hurdle apologized for the confusion it caused, and said bylaw officers were sent back out to clarify with campers they were not being told to leave the property altogether, but to simply move back to the parking lot.
Hurdle also noted that council’s approval to allow the campers to stay until July 31 actually applied to the entire park, which means the eviction notices would not have been actionable in the first place.
Chrystal Wilson, an advocate for the campers at Belle Park said many of the campers who had moved to the grassy section of the park were told that if they did not leave the park, their items would be removed by noon. She said one resident was told that if he moved the majority of his items back to the parking lot by noon, he would be able to stay.
The city says that instructions to move to the front of the park were communicated to campers when the notices were give. The city says they communicated with about 25 to 30 people on site.