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.