The City of Kingston is treating housing insecurity like an inconvenience they expect to disappear, rather than a problem worth solving.
In ongoing legal proceedings at Kingston’s Superior Court, deliberation is occurring on whether removing the Belle Park encampment infringes upon its residents’ right to life, liberty, and security. If the judge finds the Bylaw to Provide for the Regulation Use of Parks and Recreation Facilities constitutionally just, the shelters belonging to the unhoused population in Belle Park will be removed.
The Belle Park encampment is situated behind the Integrated Care Hub (ICH), a harm-reduction based medical clinic that serves the immediate and long-term needs of those underserved by their communities.
The clinic’s consumption and treatment services and rest zone—which allows individuals a safe place to rest and sleep—make it an invaluable service in caring for Kingston’s unhoused populations. The ICH also refers individuals to additional medical and social services as needed.
One of the arguments in favour of disbanding the Belle Park encampment is the use of fentanyl within it. If the encampment is facilitating the use of dangerous substances, shutting it down is understandable. However, unhoused individuals who are already using fentanyl benefit from proximity to the Integrated Care Hub, the service in Kingston best equipped to treat overdose. Distancing unhoused individuals from this service will endanger their lives.
Another issue raised by closing the encampment is where current residents will go next.
Will McDowell, a lawyer representing the City of Kingston, suggested residents take shelter during the day in public spaces, like libraries and malls. Librarians and retail workers aren’t trained to help unhoused individuals, nor is it their job to do so.
Displacing the responsibility of care for its unhoused population to workers implies the City’s disinterest in adequately addressing housing insecurity and its victims.
Provincial and municipal governments must address the root causes of housing insecurity. Although there’s an overlap between substance use and experiencing homelessness, it’s far from being the only contributor to unhousedness—mental illness and lacking social support are equally substantial risk factors. Affordable housing and access to mental health care are grossly lacking in Ontario.
In their absence, harm reduction and diversionary measures must be promoted. Our Livable Solutions is an organization that builds communities of small cabins for unhoused people to reside in, a far more productive and humane alternative to disbanding encampments with no substitute for residents.
The money being spent to fight the encampment case in court could be directed towards helpful programs like these.
Encampments benefit their residents insofar as they provide community and protection. Living in groups dissuades the isolation associated with being unhoused and allows folks to sleep without fear of their few possessions being stolen or vandalized by passersby.
In July, the City of Kingston banned encampment residents from lighting fires to keep warm. As temperatures drop, this continued ban will cause cold-related deaths.
Disbanding the encampment will encourage isolation from necessary community, protection, and medical services, ultimately facilitating mental and physical harm.
The need to adequately address housing insecurity is only growing.
—Journal Editorial Board
All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to email@example.com.