Sudbury's homeless can't stay in Memorial Park, city says
Homeless advocate petitions city to create safe space for encampments
City of Greater Sudbury officials say they are doing all they can to help the city's homeless and addicted people, but those individuals can't be allowed to stay in Memorial Park, or any other outdoor space.
Kevin Fowke, the city's manager of corporate services, says the people who have camped out in Memorial Park, in the city's downtown core, have been relocated, not evicted.
"It isn't necessary in lots of cases for individuals to be camping in a park," he said. "There are alternatives to being in the park overnight. Obviously, that is not the best situation for anybody in terms of temporary accommodation."
Fowke said the youth warming centre and the off-the-street shelter in Cedar Place are options available to the homeless population.
He added the city has received complaints from a daycare located near Memorial Park, regarding the tent cities that have propped up on numerous occasions.
Last week the city hired contract security guards to patrol the park 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The Memorial Park security is in addition to a downtown pilot program that has had security officers patrolling the downtown core for close to 18 hours per day.
"It's a difficult and a complex situation, one that isn't without hope," Fowke said. "But at the same time, again, we're trying to do the best for a number of different interests here. And for those that are experiencing homelessness, we haven't taken the approach of criminalizing homelessness or criminalizing addiction."
Fowke said Sudbury's city council has taken steps to improve the availability of transitional housing to assist those with severe addiction issues.
They're human beings, advocate says
Evie Ali, an advocate for the city's homeless, has argued the city has not done enough to support the individuals who have camped out in Memorial Park.
"They're not giving them space inside. They're not allowing them to live outside. They're basically asking these people not to exist," she said. "Well, they're human beings."
Ali created a petition that asks the city to create a safe space for the homeless encampments. As of Wednesday morning, she said she received more than 500 signatures and 237 comments.
Ali said the city does not have enough provisional shelters to accommodate the more than 150 homeless individuals within the community by her count. The city says it receives an average of 260 visits per day to its cooling centres, and has gotten more than 320 visits some days.
While the city has also allocated some funding to set aside hotel rooms for homeless individuals, Ali said those rooms are far from the downtown core, where many social services are most readily available.