Kingston Ont. mayor says province needs to help fight homelessness

Kingston, Ont. mayor, Bryan Paterson says Ontario should help with efforts to fight homelessness. Global News

The mayor of Kingston, Ont., is weighing in on a recent Ontario court ruling that calls “homeless camp” evictions unconstitutional.

Bryan Paterson suggests Kingston’s experience compared with the situation that led to the court ruling in southwestern Ontario is different.

In Kitchener, a provincial judge denied the municipality’s request to remove roughly 50 unhoused people from an encampment on a vacant municipally owned parking lot saying it violates the Charter of Rights.

Read more: Ontario judge denies request to clear Kitchener encampment citing Charter violation

For dozens of people living rough in Kingston – at an encampment along the K&P Trail and Belle Park – an eviction deadline is looming.

Campers have until March 21 before they will have to pick up their belongings and leave.

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However, the Kitchener ruling has added a wrinkle to that timeline.

Read more: Cold snap to hit Kingston, southeastern Ont.

“Here, the encampment is – it’s in public park space and along K&P Trail, so, certainly there is an argument that its space that should be available for other residents,” Paterson said.

The ruling in Kitchener-Waterloo came after two judges ruled against residents fighting to prevent encampment evictions at city parks in Toronto and Hamilton.

Click to play video: 'Encampment Rights'
Encampment Rights

In those cases, the judges found there was enough space to accommodate the city’s homeless population.

Kingston recently opened up more than 60 shelter spaces to help those without a place to sleep, but is that enough?

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“There’s no question that the ideal way forward is a big increase in the amount of supportive housing in the city that would be a longer-term solution.”

The city has spent $18 million on support for the unhoused in the last two years, some of which was used to build the Integrated Care Hub.

Read more: Future uncertain for Kingston, Ont.’s unhoused population as winter sets in

Earlier this year councillors also decided to spend up to $149,000 for services at the encampment, including toilets, dumpsters and security.

But when it comes to filling the gap in the fight against homelessness, he calls these Band-Aid solutions.

“We need provincial funding, federal government funding in order to make that work and so that’s going to be a continued call and an advocacy push from me.”

“The municipality, the City of Kingston, and the province of Ontario have a partnership, the province needs to step up and they need to provide the funding so that the city can be successful in creating those accessible spaces,” city councillor Greg Ridge said.

The ruling in Kitchener is one that could have a trickle-down effect on municipalities facing similar issues, but at this point, only time will tell.

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The mayor says next week he will appear in front of the provincial finance committee ahead of the provincial budget announcement in order to continue pushing for help in Kingston.

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