The city is assuring Belle Park residents that bylaw officers will not be coming in to remove anyone from the homeless camp on Friday.
In fact, the city says CAO Lanie Hurdle plans to visit Belle Park and discuss with campers next steps after council’s Friday eviction date passes.
“We have always indicated that we would take a gradual approach to relocation and that is what we will continue to do over the next couple of weeks,” Hurdle said in an emailed statement.
On Tuesday, several of the people staying at Belle Park were alarmed after bylaw officers came to deliver eviction notices to those who had moved beyond the parking lot.
Several campers told Global News they were told to leave the park entirely — if not, they and their belongings would be forcibly removed.
Within hours, Hurdle sent out a statement, saying the written notices were a mistake, and that no one was being evicted from the park.
Some residents expressed trepidation after Tuesday’s incident, wondering if bylaw officers were going to come in on Friday and hand out eviction notices.
Hurdle said that won’t be the case.
“We can confirm we will not be enforcing evictions at Belle Park (Friday),” Hurdle said.
She also said she is planning to visit the park sometime in the next week, along with community partners, to discuss how they will be aiming to transition those living at the park away from the camp.
Although the city has always maintained they would not be forcing anyone out of the park, in a press release sent out last weekend, the city said portable washrooms will be removed and the temporary power will be disconnected on Friday.
But the city said that also won’t be happening.
“We will be taking a gradual approach to removing these temporary services over the next few weeks in adherence to council’s July 7 direction that there will be no legal camping in the park after July 31. We have no plans to remove any services or structures (Friday),” the city said in an emailed statement.
As for those staying at Belle Park, residents and advocates will be holding a community breakfast Friday morning, where they will be calling on the city to allow residents to stay in the park with full services until long-term housing options are available.
“Belle Park residents must have continued access to running water, electricity, toilets, and waste removal,” a press release from Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston said.
The advocacy organization says services are expected to be withdrawn over the next few weeks and relocated to the city’s Artillery Park shelter, where campers will be encouraged to visit, sleep and access services. This shelter is meant to be fully operational by Friday.
But several campers expressed to Global News and Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston they would prefer staying at Belle Park while waiting for long-term housing, rather than use the shelter. Mutual Aid said some residents said they would either retreat into the woods, or be forced to live on the streets, two options they said put the residents at greater risk than living in the park.
The community breakfast is set to take place Friday morning at 8 a.m. at Belle Park.