People with housing instability can find a place to call home at the Kingston sleeping cabins.
The Sleeping Cabin Project serves as a home community for people experiencing housing instability. Currently located at Centre 70, the project is relocating to Portsmouth Olympic Harbour (POH) on Oct. 3.
The project was initiated by acting Executive Director of Our Livable Solutions (OLS), Chrystal Wilson, in 2022. Wilson conducted consultations for the project by talking to unhoused residents living at Kingston’s Belle Park encampment.
“I started going [to Belle Park Encampment] to see what I could do to help and asked people what home looked like to them, and we had a lot of discussions, and mostly what they came up with was the tiny home village, which is what they’re looking for,” Wilson said in an interview with The Journal.
During the pandemic, one of Wilson’s family members experienced homelessness, and Wilson felt the need to act.
“I have a family member who experienced homelessness; fortunately, they’re now housed, but because of that experience, I went down to the Belle Park encampment to see what I could do to help,” Wilson said.
The initial sleeping cabin project included 10 cabins at the POH in Jan. 2022, expanding to 17 cabins today. Wilson hopes to have a total of 20 cabins once a permanent location is secured.
Without a permanent location, the cabin project was moved several times. The City of Kingston is currently considering two places: Rodden Park, east of the greenhouse on City property, and the Rideau Marina, on the east bank of the Great Cataraqui River in Kingston’s east end, on privately owned property.
For residents in these areas, public meetings were held at the Rideau Marina on Sept. 26 and POH on Sept. 28.
“A staff report will be provided to the Council for their consideration on a possible long-term location in November for the Sleeping Cabin program,” said Amy Gibson, manager of housing and homelessness in the City’s housing and social services department to The Journal.
Wilson has strict criteria for the permanent location to distance residents from individuals who can deter cabin residents from finding stable housing.
“Our criteria is that we are not located in the Inner Harbour or in the Rideau Heights area and that we’re more on the outskirts of town or away from kind of traditional places that people without homes tend to congregate,” Wilson said.
Wilson emphasized that when assisting individuals in transitioning out of homelessness, it’s crucial to address potential challenges, and distance residents from individuals who may negatively impact their success.
“When you’re helping people exit homelessness, part of it is addressing the negative influences that can happen. Some people have to worry about substance use and address the negative influences that can happen. The further away we are from people who can be negative influences on people’s successes, the more important,” Wilson said.
The sleeping cabins are built with a fiberglass material. Each cabin costs approximately $25,000 to build and is optimized to require very little energy for heating and cooling.
The cabins are operated by OLS, but the City provides $28,000 monthly towards the project.
Wilson emphasized the need for a support system for families who have loved ones who are experiencing homelessness. OLS hosts support meetings for families on the third Sunday of each month at The Spire.
“We need to have a community message that says it’s important to not judge the reasons somebody becomes homeless because you weren’t in their shoes, and you don’t know what they experienced. When you’re without a home, it’s a horrific experience.” Wilson said.
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