Former Belle Park campers speak out after forced to leave

Click to play video: 'Former Belle Park campers speak out after forced to leave'
Former Belle Park campers speak out after forced to leave
A day after city crews cleared the Belle Park encampment, many campers moved their tents and belongings to wooded areas on Montreal St. – Sep 2, 2020

The dust has now settled at Belle Park in Kingston, Ont., after crews cleared the encampment that was on the property since April.

Members of the City of Kingston were accompanied by police began at around 1 pm on Tuesday to clear encampment. Tents, bikes, and other campers’ belongings were shipped away to Cooks Arena and Artillery Park, where it would be stored until the owners came to retrieve it.

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A few campers chose to opt-out of that option, gathering their items and trekking through a forested area near Belle Park as a secondary home.

“I kind of smirked at the end of the day after you [city crews] put us through the wash, but I got to watch you guys try to pick that up because it’s probably about 500 pounds,” said Ben Simon, a former Belle Park camper.


Hundreds of items including, a couch, air conditioner, skis and more, were lined up along the sides of the dirt trail where Simon and his girlfriend spent the night in a tent.

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Weather permitting, the couple says they hope to find an apartment in the coming days where they will move the items.

Click to play video: 'Belle Park homeless encampment cleared'
Belle Park homeless encampment cleared

Simon and his girlfriend were not the only ones spending the night in the woods. Several other former Belle Park campers pitched a tent in various locations around Montreal St.

Andy, who did not provide his last name, also found a wooded area near the original encampment site to call home.

“It all happened so fast,” said Andy. ” I can handle it in the woods but the rest of them really don’t have no place to go.”

Andy was one of a handful of people who moved into Belle Park in April. He says the camp grew to over 40-people before dwindling to a dozen in late August.

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He believes many campers chose to go to Artillery Park that the city set up as a temporary integrated care hub at the end of July.

“We have continued to provide options for people that are either ranging from shelter to obviously the integrated care hub facility that we initiated back in July,” said Ruth Noordegraaf, Director of Housing and Social Services for the City of Kingston.

The Artillery Park care hub was meant as a temporary fix until Oct. 1, until the city moved it to a permanent location.

In August, one of the options voted on by city council was 342 Patrick St.

“At this point, we don’t have any signed agreements in place with any location,” said Noordegraaf.

She also said that city staff is working diligently to meet the Oct. 1 deadline and is in the early stages of reviewing the shelter system to address the issues that contributed to the Belle Park encampment.


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