Some tents remain at church despite order to leave
City looking for a new emergency shelter site for homeless
Several occupied tents were still standing on the property at Emmanuel United Church on Wednesday, a day after about a dozen homeless campers were asked to leave — but the minister says they won’t be allowed much longer.
“If I come to the church tomorrow and there are still tents here, they’ve got to come down,” said Rev. Don Uhryniw in an interview at the church on Wednesday.
Uhryniw said that’s because it’s getting colder at night and he’s concerned people could freeze.
There were about eight tents and six campers left on Wednesday, down from 15 tents and about a dozen campers on Tuesday, the church’s deadline for vacating.
“I hope they’re all gone by tomorrow — they’re packing up slowly,” Uhryniw said on Wednesday, adding that city trucks were expected Thursday to pick up garbage left behind.
About 20 homeless campers moved to Emmanuel on Aug. 27 after they were evicted from county-owned Victoria Park, where a 45-tent encampment sprung up after the Warming Room shelter closed July 1.
Campers had clergy’s consent to stay until Tuesday.
But it wasn’t clear this week where the homeless would go, after leaving church property.
Some told The Examiner they would sleep on a friend’s sofa, while others said they were go
ing to stay in a tent trailer or camp elsewhere.
Nobody went to pitch a tent at St. John’s Anglican Church nearby, where clergy has allowed homeless people to camp since early July.
This week there were eight tents there, down from about 20 in early summer.
Rev. Brad Smith wrote in an email to The Examiner on Wednesday that he’s not asking anyone to leave.
He’s working with campers to try to find them housing.
He also wrote that the situation at St. John’s differs from Emmanuel’s in that campers have been there for three months and he’s gotten to know them well enough to help them “find a workable solution.”
Meanwhile the city set up 30 cots for the homeless in the auditorium of the Peterborough Public Library.
Since they were made available in mid-July, most of those cots have been empty all night.
Dan Hennessey, a homeless camper who stayed at Victoria Park and later at Emmanuel Church, told The Examiner this week that many people don’t use the shelter cots in the library.
That’s because they dislike rules such as having their bags searched before they can be allowed in.
But city communications manager Brendan Wedley wrote in an email to The Examiner on Tuesday that rules make shelters safer both for the homeless and for shelter workers.
He also wrote that the city is in discussions with officials from Murray Street Baptist Church about potentially having emergency shelter beds there again. The church once hosted the now-defunct Warming Room before the space had to be closed for repairs this summer.
Wedley also wrote that the city hasn’t yet selected an operator for a shelter to replace the defunct Warming Room; with these plans still in development, he wrote, no opening date has been set.
Tents, clothing and loads of debris remain on the property of Emmanuel United Church on Wednesday.