Kingston: Community Solidarity Thwarts City’s Opportunistic Eviction Attempt

From Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston (Facebook)

In a powerful act of solidarity and compassion, encampment residents, neighbours, and concerned community members rallied on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, to block the City of Kingston’s callous attempt to evict and displace people sheltering in Belle Park. Side-by-side in the pouring rain, we resisted the City’s opportunistic plan to exploit legal loopholes to enforce a day-time eviction. For today, we were successful. We refuse to accept their narrative that these evictions would do anything but further harm those who are already marginalized.

Earlier this year, the City of Kingston stooped to a new low when they shamelessly misinterpreted Justice Carter’s decision regarding the eviction of the encampment. Contrary to Mayor Bryan Paterson’s claims, the ruling did not grant the city a “green light” to evict during the daytime (quotation marks to emphasize the ridiculousness of the traffic light used to dictate when encampment residents can be present in the park). During the case, disappointingly, the day-time circumstances of encampment residents were not considered. There was no evidence brought forward to address the availability of resources during day-time, or how a day-time eviction of the encampment could exacerbate the effects of other Bylaws that target the same population (e.g., the Community Standards Bylaw, which prohibits loitering).

Yet, the City persists in its opportunistic pursuit, showing up at Belle Park ready to evict residents this morning, and releasing a statement today that attempts to spin the evictions as simply following court orders and threatening legal ‘remedies’ for those who do not comply. It is not in the spirit of the judge’s decision to carry out evictions based on their opportunistic misinterpretation. If the City truly wishes to take such measures, it must return to court and substantiate the constitutionality of its bylaws.

In their statement, the City claims that additional day-time spaces have opened at the Adelaide Shelter, but this claim was exposed as fabrication In a Whig Standard article published today by the shelter’s operator. The reality is that there are not enough daytime services available to accommodate the unhoused population, and expecting individuals to dismantle their shelters daily is a blatant disregard for their dignity and well-being. It is also entirely impractical for most residents in the encampment who have disabilities, illnesses, injuries or addictions. This approach does not make any sense unless it is understood as an effort on the part of the City of Kingston to make conditions in the encampment so inconvenient and so unbearable for people living there that they choose to leave the encampment altogether, which is what they went to court for in the first place.

The lack of political will to address homelessness is undeniable. Recent investments in infrastructure and tourism projects show that the City has ample resources that it fails to prioritize affordable housing and support services. It is not only possible but morally imperative that City funds be redirected to support every person’s fundamental rights to shelter and care. We cannot afford to continue investing in infrastructure, tourism, and eviction enforcement, and expecting vulnerable community members to pay the ultimate costs.

We reject the City of Kingston’s cruel eviction strategy and call for a humane and equitable approach to addressing homelessness. No evictions in Belle Park should ever occur, but especially not when there are insufficient accessible housing options for the very people they are evicting. Harm-reduction housing must be prioritized. Another world is possible, and it requires courage, compassion, and a commitment to upholding the dignity of all individuals.

After many years of fighting for accessible housing for all and against these inhumane and shortsighted evictions, we are still here and we’re not going anywhere. We know the City will be back, committed to wasting its resources on this inhumane effort to make homelessness less visible. We will be back too.

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