The Belle Park homeless encampment in Kingston, Ont., was cleared by city crews on Tuesday afternoon.
Kingston police arrived shortly after 12:30 pm as city crews dismantled and removed the residents’ tents and other remnants of the camp.
“I had a worker tell me that we choose to live this way. When I asked them to wait for a few hours, they don’t even know whats going on,” said Sylvia Clarke, one of the Belle Park campers.
Clarke was once one of over 30 people who called Belle Park home. On Tuesday, the City of Kingston acted on a deadline it set back on July 31 that declared it would become illegal to live in the park.
Over that time, the City says members of the housing and social services, along with addiction and mental services, have offered assistance to move residents’ belongings and provide free transportation to the integrated care hub or any other location of their choice before and after the deadline.
On Tuesday, the City of Kingston moved in and crews were seen gathering tents, couches, bikes and more, hauling it away from the site.
“Belongings will either be stored at Artillery Park or Cooks Arena depending on the size of their belongings,” wrote the City of Kingston.
At the end of July, the City set up Artillery Park Aquatic Centre as an integrated care hub for the campers — this was meant to be used as an alternative to Belle Park —after the City urged the campers to clear the camp several times.
Still, the deadlines were pushed back throughout the summer.
“I don’t think Artillery Park is working at all,” said city councillor Jim Neill. “We’ve created two areas of frustration,” referring to the neighbourhoods near both Artillery Park and Belle Park.
Since the end of April, when the encampment began, the number of people living in the park grew from around a dozen to over 30, according to Nathan Rosevear, a camper that spoke for the group.
Over the last few weeks, Jeremy Milloy, a member of Mutual Aid Katarokwi Kingston who has been providing support to the group for several months, says the number of campers has dropped to around 15.
“We have a situation where our city has spent a great deal of money on bylaw, police and physical equipment to make the lives of the people with the most difficult situation in our community more difficult,” said Milloy.
According to Kingston police, no arrests were made during the clearing.