DJ Musgrave has been living in Belle Park for less than two months, one of at least a dozen people Global News spoke to in the downtown park, many well out of sight from the road. Now the city is seeking the green light to evict them from the Ontario Superior Court.
“If they want us to get going then offer some jobs or throw in a chunk of cash,” says Musgrave.
In March, the city handed out trespass notices and began working with the campers to relocate them into shelters. Kingston’s director of housing services Ruth Noordegraaf says months later, with people still living in the park, they need a court order.
“We have really relied on voluntary compliance of those folks that do live in the encampments. We obviously, in lieu of forcibly removing individuals from the encampments, are now seeking out to get guidance and advice from the courts.”
While staff say they are trying to take a compassionate approach, Providence Centre project lead Sayyida Jaffer says at the end of the day, it’s still a forced eviction.
“We are really disappointed that the city has chosen to take steps to forcibly evict people instead of meeting their actual needs.”
In a similar situation in Kitchener this past January, the Ontario courts blocked the eviction of an encampment because it found there were not enough accessible shelter spaces available. Since then, Kingston has increased the number of shelters deemed low-barrier.
However, Jessie-Ann Johnston from Home Base Housing says capacity limits at those shelters have kept many campers in the park.
“I understand, I think, where the city is coming from in ways, but also there isn’t much option.”
City staff expect to file the application for a court order within the next two weeks. How long it will take to receive a response is unclear, meaning Musgrave and his fellow campers will continue to live with the threat of eviction on the horizon.
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