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Unhoused Kingstonians worry about potential upcoming encampment evictions

Housing advocates and unhoused Kingstonians are raising concerns that people in those encampments could be evicted in the coming weeks. Global News / Megan King

An earlier version of this story contained a claim that care was not taken to ensure tents were empty before being removed in the past. We have since established that care was taken, and all structures were vacant at the time of removal.

For months, several people have been camping out in the woods behind the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) on Montreal Street, but those days could be numbered.

Housing advocates in Kingston, Ont., are raising concerns that people in those encampments could be evicted in the coming weeks.

“Without exaggeration, we can say an eviction here would be a matter of life and death,” says Clara Langley of Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston.

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As of a June 29 special council meeting, the “encampment protocol” has been reinstated, and evictions across the city have been happening.

“While the details of a planned eviction may be unknown, I think it’s really important to emphasize that the fears of an eviction are very real and are being felt,” Langley says. “Because there is always this threat with the encampment protocol.”

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Langley says “history tells us” that fall is the season for larger evictions to happen — leaving ICH residents like Crystal Laraby and Cecil Lee worried.

“This is ours, this is what we got. We may have, you know, plopped here and made it ours but, this is all we have,” says Laraby. “Why are you taking it away? You can’t just take our home away, it’s already been taken. We can’t handle another one.”

Click to play video: 'Unhoused left with nowhere to go as encampment protocol is reinstated'
Unhoused left with nowhere to go as encampment protocol is reinstated

Mutual Aid is calling for transparency from the city when it comes to what services are being made available for Kingstonians being subjected to encampment eviction notices.

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“All evictions cause harm, but because people rely on these services in the midst of a drug poisoning crisis,” says Langley, “as evictions force people further into the woods, force connections of community to be broken, it’s almost certain that an eviction here would result in deaths.”

Director of Housing and Social Services for the City of Kingston, Ruth Noordegraaf, says city staff are working with shelter and housing partners to increase shelter capacity and services, alongside initiatives like additional sleeping cabins.

“There’s definitely ongoing conversation around evictions and ‘if’ and ‘when,'” says Noordegraaf. “We really are trying to focus on finding as many housing solutions as possible, while balancing the encampment protocol that’s reinstated by council.”

There currently is no set dates for evictions at the ICH, but a new petition is being circulated, already signed by more than 600 supporters, demanding the City of Kingston halt planned evictions and provide barrier-free, geared-to-income housing options appropriate for all, including those who use substances.

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