Trespass notices issued to homeless campers at Belle Park in Kingston, Ont.

Click to play video: 'Trespass notices issued to homeless campers at  Belle Park'
Trespass notices issued to homeless campers at Belle Park
Homeless individuals have until January 11 to leave the municipally owned property. City staff say the are working with community partners to relocate the affected homeless people. – Jan 6, 2023

A small city of homeless people camped out in Kingston’s Belle Park area is set to get a lot smaller.

On Friday individuals living in tents and other structures on city land were issued trespass notices and told to get out by Jan. 11.

Director of licensing and enforcement services Curtis Smith said the action was taken for bylaw and safety reasons.

“While my staff were out there this morning issuing the trespass notices we actually witnessed a tent burst into flames.”

Read more: High water levels having an impact on homeless encampments in London, Ont.

The city bylaw that prohibits camping in municipal parks and recreation areas had been suspended during the pandemic but was reinstated last summer. Ever since, municipal staff have been gradually working to relocate homeless individuals, Smith said.

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“Now, with the availability of more shelter spaces and drop-in locations, we’ve decided that ultimately we are going to wrap up that city direction and do the relocation into appropriate housing options for these unhoused individuals.”

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In total, the city has added 60 new shelter spaces. But shelters aren’t a good fit for everyone.

Jamie, who was among those served notices and for whom Global News agreed to use only their first name, says he currently resides with his girlfriend and shelters don’t accommodate couples.

“We’ll have to go to Plan B, then C, D – however many I don’t know – wait for the day to come and see what happens. I don’t know it … sucks too that it’s in the wintertime, right?”

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Gilles Charette, executive director of Trellis — the organization that oversees the Integrated Care Hub — says he’s pleased with more shelter spaces, but worries people will just end up moving farther away from the ICH, and the services it offers.

“Many times it’s people who are most vulnerable to drug poisoning for whom these services aren’t always as accessible because we are living in a drug poisoning crisis.”

Both Charrette and Smith say they will continue to work with community partners to relocate as many people as possible before the trespass notice deadline arrives.

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