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Group handing out meals to Oshawa’s homeless asked by city to vacate public park

Click to play video: 'Durham group providing meals to homeless asked to leave' Durham group providing meals to homeless asked to leave
WATCH: A group of people that have been providing meals to the homeless at a public park in Oshawa are being told to shut down their operation. – Sep 1, 2020

A group of independent volunteers and homelessness advocates that have been providing hundreds of meals to Oshawa’s homeless every day since the start of the pandemic are being told to shut down their operation in Memorial Park.

The city says it is taking this measure because the individuals don’t have a permit.

Since March 17, the group says they pooled together donations to help out Oshawa’s homeless population after realizing people were in desperate need of food.

“When the crisis hit, our local food banks were all closed down, the soup kitchen shut its doors and we saw this coming,” said John Walker, one of the lead volunteers.

Walker says individuals had nowhere to turn. He adds despite their good intentions, they’ve been getting threats from the city, which has told them they need to leave.

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“A lot of people have put a lot of effort forward to feed the homeless,” said Ray Bond, founder of independent group Durham Dignity for the Homeless.

“It’s disheartening that somebody from city hall is making an effort to get rid of us.”

Mayor Carter’s office told Global News Carter was not available for comment Tuesday, however, a city official said the group was warned by by-law officers in July, and that they have been given ample time to comply with the rules that were outlined.

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Transparency advocate Jeff Davis says the individuals have every right to operate in the park without a permit.

“The people who are providing sandwiches here are doing it under provincial legislation, under the Good Samaritan Act,” he said.

When asked about the matter, a spokesperson with the ministry of municipal affairs and housing told Global News “your question requires providing legal advice, and the Ministry does not provide legal advice or legal analysis to the media or the public,” and suggested the question be asked of the municipality.

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The Memorial Park group says they have faced additional obstacles from the city, including not being able to obtain a permit for a homelessness awareness rally that took place at the park in August. The city says this was because “detailed COVID-19 Event and Prevention Plan was not provided that met the necessary requirements to host an outdoor event.”

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Furthermore, Bond, who was the organizer of the rally, says the city enacted a trespass notice against him in July. The notice prevents Bond from being able to attend the park for three months.

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