Ottawa

No eviction Monday, homeless encampment told

Residents of a makeshift homeless camp in woods just north of the Bayview LRT station say they've been given a reprieve from eviction, but it's not clear how long it will last.

About 10 residents remain in tent community near Bayview station

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing Leilani Farha, second from right, addresses a rally in support of residents of a homeless encampment in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Residents of a makeshift homeless camp in woods just north of the Bayview LRT station say they've been given a reprieve from eviction, but it's not clear how long it will last.

On Friday, the City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission (NCC) issued a verbal trespass notice to the approximately 10 people still living in the camp, where a fire broke out on Nov. 22.

On Monday morning, around the time of the anticipated eviction, dozens of people turned up to show their support for the camp's residents. Among those attending the rally were Leilani Farha, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to housing, Alex Neve, secretary-general for Amnesty International Canada, and Ottawa city councillors Catherine McKenney and Jeff Leiper.

Justin Bolger says the 10 residents still living in the camp don't want to move because they feel they need the support of nearby services. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

The rally ended with a small piece of good news for the camp's occupants.

"There's no eviction set for today," announced Justin Bolger, who said someone from the Salvation Army told him there'd be no attempt to evict the residents Monday.

"[That] doesn't mean tomorrow it [won't] change, [but] they're not planning on evicting us today."

Bolger said he's upset he and the other residents haven't been included in the conversations between the city, the NCC and other organizations about the encampment.

"It's unfair. They're talking about us, so why can't they talk to us?" he asked.

Resident Todd Kelly and executive director of the Somerset West Community Health Centre Naini Cloutier say residents don't want to move to another community, citing social ties and access to support systems. 0:56

Meanwhile, conditions in the camp haven't improved for residents.

"It's rough," said Todd Kelly, who's been living there for a couple months without toilets or running water. "You even have better amenities when you're camping." 

Kelly said he's worried about the impending snow and frigid temperatures, but still doesn't want to leave the community for a hotel room in Vanier.

Tents moved 

For months, the tents straddled City of Ottawa and NCC-owned land, but over the last day, the two remaining tents on city land were moved north to NCC property.

Bolger said he hopes that will allow residents to avoid dealing with city officials or Ottawa police, who he said have been visiting the site every day for the past week and a half.

"They don't have a reason to be here," Bolger said. "I could see if they were getting phone calls for drug overdoses or they were getting phone calls for fights or they were getting phone calls for other stuff, but without any of those phone calls, they have no reason to be here."

Justin Bolger, right, and another resident inside one of the tents on NCC land near Bayview LRT station. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

He said a number of organizations including the Salvation Army and Overdose Prevention Ottawa already check on residents multiple times a day.

On Monday afternoon, the NCC said it's still working with the city and other partners to find suitable accommodations for the residents of the camp because of "ongoing health and safety risks, including those due to the onset of colder weather."

Residents camped out in a wooded area near the Bayview rail station say they hope the city consults them about the next steps. Local Coun. Jeff Leiper shares his thoughts. 10:00