Tent city has nowhere to go now

Home­less en­camp­ment at Em­manuel United Church set to pack up


The home­less peo­ple who moved their tents from Vic­to­ria Park at the end of Au­gust to the prop­erty at Em­manuel United Church must va­cate their en­camp­ment by 10 a.m. Tues­day — and it still wasn’t clear late Mon­day where they will go.

“That’s the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion,” said Dan Hen­nessey, one of the campers.

Hen­nessey said he’ll be couch­surf­ing as of Mon­day night. Oth­ers at the en­camp­ment on Mon­day said they didn’t know where they will stay af­ter city trucks come clean up any re­main­ing de­bris out­side the church Tues­day at 10 a.m.

The city has pro­vided 30 emer­gency beds at the Peter­bor­ough Pub­lic Li­brary — many of which have been avail­able night af­ter night, over the sum­mer — but Hen­nessey thinks those will re­main empty.

Among the de­ter­rents, he said, is that home­less peo­ple must have their bags searched be­fore they’re ad­mit­ted.

“Peo­ple have had bad ex­peri

ences (with emer­gency shel­ters),” he said. “They don’t like the way things are run.”

There were still 15 tents on Em­manuel prop­erty on Mon­day, down from 20 when the larger tent en­camp­ment at county-owned Vic­to­ria Park was dis­man­tled Aug. 27.

The en­camp­ment at Vic­to­ria Park had about 45 tents at its peak, in the sum­mer. Peo­ple pitched tents there af­ter the Warm­ing Room shel­ter closed for re­pairs, July 1.

Faced with an evic­tion no­tice from the county and no place to live, peo­ple moved their tents a block north to Em­manuel United Church where the clergy gave them per­mis­sion to camp — at least tem­po­rar­ily.

Rev. Don Uhryniw of Em­manuel United Church said Mon­day he won’t call po­lice to move the home­less along on Tues­day morn­ing, nor has he is­sued a for­mal evic­tion no­tice.

But he has asked peo­ple to leave be­cause it’s get­ting cold at night and he’s con­cerned some­one will freeze.

“It’s not safe,” he said.

And his church lacks the re­sources to search for homes for peo­ple; some con­gre­ga­tions in Toronto have so­cial jus­tice work­ers who do this, he said, but not here.

He also said he’s seen a lack of lead­er­ship from the city over home­less­ness this sum­mer.

“As peo­ple of faith, we have to do some­thing about this — but peo­ple of faith don’t sit at the coun­cil ta­ble,” he said.

Out­side the church on Mon­day, Mayor Diane Ther­rien met with Hen­nessey and other campers to ask what she could do to help.

They dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of putting peo­ple up at the city­owned Beaver­mead camp­ground, for ex­am­ple, po­ten­tially in recre­ational ve­hi­cles. Hen­nessey said he’s been of­fered two do­nated RVs and a gen­er­a­tor, but there’s no place to park them legally in the city.

Ther­rien said she’d have to find out more about that pos­si­bil­ity; al­though camp­ing sea­son is over and the park is city­owned, it is op­er­ated by Oton­abee Con­ser­va­tion, an out­side agency.

Mean­while it was un­clear on Mon­day whether the Warm­ing Room will re­open in Mur­ray Street Bap­tist Church any time soon.

Ther­rien re­ferred ques­tions to city staff. No more in­for­ma­tion was avail­able from staff or from clergy at Mur­ray Street Bap­tist Church late in the day Mon­day.


Mayor Diane Ther­rien speaks with home­less camper Dan Hen­nessey out­side Em­manuel United Church on Mon­day af­ter­noon.

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