Unhoused people camping out in Kingston’s north end will not be going anywhere — at least not for now.
Dozens of people were under threat of eviction Wednesday, but Kingston city council voted to extend the deadline until March 21.
At the same meeting, council also declared a “mental health and addictions crisis” in the city. It was a victory for the unhoused campers living around the Integrated Care Hub.
Tuesday night council voted 8-to-5 to delay the eviction of campers from the Belle Park area, which would have happened Wednesday.
“I’m actually relieved they’ve seen our side of it,” unhoused camper Lacey McNeil said.
“We do have the help that we didn’t think that we had,” said another unhoused camper, Eric Cook.
The forced relocation was an attempt by the city to get most of these unhoused Kingstonians to move to shelters offered by the city.
Mayor Bryan Paterson voted to oppose the motion to delay over safety concerns.
“There have been incidences of human trafficking, of violent assaults of drug trafficking and theft, and as mayor, I want to make sure that as a city we can stand behind our services that we are offering,” Paterson said.
The delay allows campers who cannot go to shelters because of restrictions to stay close to the ICH, and access resources through the winter.
At the meeting, council heard a dozen delegations from residents, campers and organizations. Most favoured the delay.
“I felt proud. I felt good, that these are my friends that I consider family now, that we are actually on the right track, that we’re listening to each other,” Cook said.
“We consider it a win,” said Laura Chaignon of Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston. “We’re happy that people who are living at the encampment right now are able to be reassured that they can stay there for a little longer.”
The delay gives campers only a couple of months before they face eviction again in March.
Meanwhile, council also unanimously approved a motion by the mayor to ask the province for more funding to provide additional resources for the unhoused acknowledging the struggle may be too big to face alone.