A demonstration took place Friday evening near Kingston, Ont.’s Integrated Care Hub (ICH) on Montreal Street, to send a message to the city about the possibility of looming evictions.
“No one should be forced to go somewhere they don’t want to go,” says Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston (MAKK) member Sayyida Jaffer.
Residents of an encampment community near the ICH, and some of their supporters rallied to say ‘no’ to evictions under the encampment protocol.
“Us being forced to move out of here, being kicked out of here, has brought a lot of stress,” says unhoused Kingstonian Margaret Halliday. “And we’ve got enough stress being out here freezing to death half the time.”
The group is calling on the city to cancel plans to evict people living in tents on city property during the fall and winter months.
“We know that if the city proceeds with an eviction, we know it’s likely that more people will move further into the woods and away from each other and services,” says Jaffer. “And those services keep them alive, like the ICH, and it increases the chances that someone will die of a drug poisoning experience in the woods.”
Community members like business owner Justine Scala attended the event in support of her unhoused downtown neighbours.
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“I extend an invitation to anyone who does spend time panhandling on Princess Street to come by the store, get some water, use the washroom, whatever they need,” the Minotaur co-owner says.
“I believe downtown is a community, and that everyone, from every part of downtown, deserves to be treated with equal respect,” Scala continues.
For Halliday, things are becoming political.
“None of us vote normally. I’m talking about everybody that lives in a tent. We don’t vote normally because we just don’t have ID, but your can register online and you can vote online,” Halliday says. “If we vote, we can probably make a difference.”
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Halliday says that she knows of at least 100 people that don’t vote that she could encourage to come out this municipal election.
Sue Deuchars, an overdose prevention support worker at the ICH, says the municipal government needs to provide the unhoused with the necessities.
“We’re talking about low-barrier, supportive housing. We’re talking about geared to income,” Deuchars says.
“We’re talking about all sorts of different avenues for all the different needs in our community.”
The rally coincides with a letter — signed by dozens of encampment residents and supporters — as well as a 600-name petition in the broader community, all asking the city to pause the encampment protocol.