Kingston, Ont. unhoused community calls for warming centre

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WATCH: A Kingston advisory committee heard an update Thursday on various measures underway to help the homeless this winter – Dec 9, 2021

Ronald Rich says he’s constantly cold as he tries to escape the frigid conditions.

“I’m so frustrated at the lack of compassion,” he says.

The 73-year-old has Parkinson’s and dementia, and is being cared for by his friend, John Tuinstra.

The two men have been sharing Tuinstra’s makeshift home.

“I just heard of a guy who, actually it’s starting to drop temperature now, but he’s already losing his limbs,” says Tuinstra.

“He’s losing his feet and legs because he got frostbite. Why has this guy got frostbite? There should be a place for him to go to warm up, to have soup, you know?”

Read more: Kingston, Ont. to provide homeless population with motel rooms in winter

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The city’s advisory committee received updates Thursday on two initiatives aimed at helping unhoused individuals like Ronald and John.

“We are working on two projects behind the scenes,” says Ruth Noordegraf, Director of Housing and Social Services.

“One being the warming centre that council approved on Nov. 17. Our Livable Solutions is also working on a sleeping cabin pilot which is also anticipated to come online really soon.”

For 44-year-old Tuinstra, the cabins are a welcome idea, but he’s unsure about the location.

“I don’t believe in putting a place like that down in Portsmouth where there is a bunch of rich people, high-end class,” he says.

“So you’re going to mix the high-end class with low end. Where’s the happy medium there? Like, those people are going to be looking down on those people.”

Read more: Kingston agencies try to set record straight about COVID-19 homeless response

For many, seeking emergency shelter isn’t possible.

The Kingston shelter system has 73 spaces, and are all full.

While a select few may be eligible for an available bed provided at a local motel, many don’t qualify for those spots, due to rules around drug use.

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The committee heard that COVID-19 cases among the city’s vulnerable remain stable, and so these trailers brought in for isolation at the integrated care hub now sit empty.

The group is trying to determine how they might be re-purposed.

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