City police and social services outreach workers were in a tent camp across from an emergency overflow shelter on Thursday. Over the past two weeks, staff have spoken to individuals setting up tents to help them access shelter and housing services, the city said.
According to the city, police are urging people to go to overflow shelters and consult social services. There were about 20 tents on the site Thursday morning.
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As of Thursday, the city said it had nine shelter beds available and 15 temporary alternative accommodations (motel spaces) that could be used “until shelter beds become available.”
Camp veteran Brian Cook claims to have been told the tent would be “ripped apart” around 7am.
“I’ve spoken social services and conclusions — there’s still no room for these people,” he told Global News Peterborough. “You have buildings, churches, schools … what we can do All these condos and apartments should be used for the homeless, move them — or all those empty hotels.
The city prohibits pitching tents on city property (with the exception of Beavermead Campground), and ordinance enforcement staff regularly notify tenters of the ordinance and provide information on how to connect with social services. It says it does.
“Outreach workers were on site Thursday to help people get to available shelter beds or temporary accommodation, based on individual circumstances,” the city said.
“This is an ongoing effort to connect people with available services.”
But some supporters say Thursday’s effort amounted to “evacuation” of those living in tents.
Retired priest Father Leo Coughlin, 90, said he has several homeless friends and on Thursday said he was “mad as hell” by the city’s latest action, or lack thereof. .
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“I have never seen so many bulls in the city, as I have seen in Peterborough the other day,” he said. “Meeting after meeting, not a single person is in custody.”
He has criticized the city for years for failing to address its growing homeless problem and lack of planning for the future.
“The homeless need a warm and safe place right now, it’s obvious,” he said. “So if it’s obvious, why don’t we do it? If it was the great mystery of the universe, you could see us standing around and playing with our thumbs.”
“I don’t want them to take anything. Leave it there,” he added. “Act on a new vision.”
Fellow activist Dan Hennessy said “eviction is not the answer” and estimates there were about 50 people at the camp.
“It’s everything Peterborough does,” he said. “They have nowhere to go. Where do these powers that these people expect to go? There is nowhere for them to go.”
Hennessy also advocates for the use of tiny homes, for which he says some landowners are offering land to set up and host them. Not approved.
“It could be a lifesaver for some people,” he said.
He says an important part is asking people experiencing homelessness what it takes to live or stay at home.
“For too long marginalized communities have been ignored. They are not asked for advice.
“They say, ‘We need this.’ Not everyone believes that. We need to be more involved with this demographic.”
Also present at the scene on Thursday were new City Council members Joy Lachka and Alex Biak, who represent the Town Ward.
Rachicha called it a “very difficult” morning for affected individuals and called on the city to take action.
“There is nothing more important than establishing a winter strategy,” Latika said. “We are lucky to be free from the bad winter weather, so now is the time to discuss and work together on what our winter strategy is.”
Mr Bierk echoed that sentiment, adding that splitting up camps is not the solution.
“There’s a real sense of community here. People care about each other,” says Bierk. “Breaking it down people go to the perimeter. That’s when you see people freeze to death or overdose. It’s important to keep this encampment.”
It has 106 shelter beds and manages about 2,000 public housing units owned and managed by nonprofits and the Peterborough Housing Authority, according to the city.
According to the city, an average of 266 people will experience homelessness each month in 2021.
“There were 251 homeless-to-dwelling trips, 35% of which were by people who had experienced chronic homelessness,” the city said.
Peterborough Action for Small Homes (PATH) will host a “Rally for Justice for the Homeless” on Saturday, November 26 at 1 p.m. at Confederation Park. Coughlin says he will be the first speaker at the event.
— Using files from Tricia Mason/Global News Peterborough
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