Homeless treated with ‘callousness,’ student says
Small groups of citizens kept vigil on the sidewalk along Victoria Park on Tuesday morning — and at least one said she was shocked at how the city has treated its homeless people.
“I thought Peterborough was a better city than this,” said Shannon Culkeen, a nursing student. “I didn’t know there was this much callousness.”
A homeless encampment of more than 40 tents was set up in Victoria Park after the Warming Room shelter closed for repairs on July 1.
On Tuesday the campers faced eviction: the county-owned Victoria Park was closed to the public at 9 a.m. for a cleanup, and under new city and county bylaws camping is not allowed in public parks.
City police were present on the edges of the park, but weren’t seen asking people to leave.
By early evening there were 11 tents left in Victoria Park, and at least one camper told The Examiner he was moving to the property at Emmanuel United Church before nightfall.
That’s where many of the campers moved: they went a block north to Emmanuel on George Street, where they had clergy permission to camp.
There were 18 tents at the church by evening.
In the park on Tuesday morning, people on the sidewalk held placards with messages such as “Do Not Criminalize Human Rights,” while other people cleaned the park.
Coun. Kemi Akapo, the second deputy mayor and the Town Ward councillor, was the only member of council seen in the park Tuesday morning.
When asked whether she thought police might evict people later, she said, “I can’t speak to that.”
Mayor Diane Therrien is on vacation outside the city this week.
Candace Shaw, the NDP candidate in the upcoming federal election for Peterborough-Kawartha, was in the park on Tuesday holding a placard calling for more public housing, which she said is part of the NDP’s platform.
Activist Rachelle Sauve said some homeless people who weren’t going to Emmanuel United Church property would be camping in wooded parks — and called it “vile” to force people to hide in the woods.
Christian Harvey, the former director of the Warming Room, called it “inexcusable” for the city or county to evict homeless people when there’s no housing for them.
But Coun. Andrew Beamer, the city’s deputy mayor, issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon stating that 15 tents had remained in Victoria Park as of midday and warning that anyone remaining in the park is trespassing.
The city also announced late Tuesday afternoon that the city social services department outreach workers who had been operating out of Victoria Park for the past two weeks will now be located at the Salvation Army,
350 Aylmer St.
Workers are there from 8:45 to 11 a.m., this week, coinciding with the breakfast program offered at the Salvation Army, to connect people with support services, including shelter beds and help with housing, depending on their individual needs.
Tent city supporters gathered near Victoria Park on Tuesday morning for a vigil as campers moved their tents off the property.