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Homeless shelters in Kingston, Ont. are running out of space, advocates say

Homelessness continues to be a problem in Kingston as encampments have popped up in new places. Global News

Visible homeless encampments across the city have packed up and moved on.

But homeless shelters are seeing more people in need of services caused by the pandemic as they continue to operate with reduced capacity.

It wasn’t too long ago that a small group of unhoused people were camped at the Memorial Centre, using power to keep warm through the winter months.

But now there’s barely a trace they were ever there.

“The people we supported at the Memorial Centre have been indicating to us that they’re under pressure to move on now. They were able to stabilize through the winter and had electricity to plug in heaters but now that I guess it’s warmer weather the electricity was cut awhile ago and they’re being pressured to move on,” said Crystal Wilson, executive director of Our Livable Solutions.

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The organization is behind the sleeping cabin pilot project at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour.

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“Homelessness isn’t a seasonal challenge, it’s a year-round challenge and we need to address it with year-round solutions. And the federal budget was really disappointing because it didn’t offer solutions for the people we support, especially the people who have extra challenges with disabilities,” Wilson said.

Making matters worse, Kingston emergency shelter In from the Cold is still operating with reduced capacity due to COVID-19.

“On direction from public health we’ve had to maintain safety distancing amongst our clients,” said Amanda Brierley, emergency shelter supervisor with In from the Cold.

“Typically, we’re at a 35 capacity rate and during the pandemic, we’ve only been able to house 18.”

Between In from the Cold, the integrated care hub, and the newly funded warming centre, there are 52 spaces for those needing a place to sleep in the city.

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Some say that’s not nearly enough, given the hardships faced by many during the pandemic.

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“CPP, OAS (old age security) hasn’t gone up, income hasn’t gone up, but the cost of living has and so there’s a big struggle there now,” Brierley said.

“There’s less housing available, there is less attainable housing available. It’s getting more and more difficult for people to leave homelessness and become successfully housed,” Wilson added.

The warming centre, with space for 19, has enough funding to run until the end of June. For others with no place to go, Wilson says many will turn to the woods.

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