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Local legal clinic urges City of Kitchener to engage with encampment residents

Their response comes after bylaw staff issued tent removal notices in Victoria Park
Victoria Park tent city
Encampment formed in Kitchener at Victoria Park

While a letter from a local legal clinic commends the City of Kitchener for its efforts to remove debris at Victoria Park, it also called on the city to actively engage with residents living at the Roos Island encampment. 

Ashley Schuitema, a staff lawyer for the Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, said the letter was written because there was cause for concern regarding the removal of tents.

"We wanted to just communicate to the, that we are aware of this issue, and two, putting them on notice of some of the challenges that the unhoused face when it comes to tents, and reasons why tents may appear to be abandoned but are not in fact actually abandoned," said Schuitema.

Schuitema added that the letter was also a reminder to the city that the Ontario Human Rights Commission states that the encampment residents are rights holders and should be involved in decisions being made by municipalities when it comes to the encampment.

The letter is in response to notices of removal given by the City of Kitchener for tents at the Victoria Park encampment, which led to a rally earlier this week in support of the encampment that was held at Roos Island.

The letter states that encampment residents spend hours and days away from tents in order to focus on survival needs such as obtaining food, income, and medication.

Schuitema told CityNews 570 that a potential solution is to have more services come to the encampment as long as that is what encampment residents want.

"If you look at A Better Tent City, for example, they have a lot of great resources that come to them regularly," said Schuitema. "A lot of amazing services in the community that come and support the residents living there, and certainly that's something that could be helpful for people that are living at the encampment."

Schuitema added that she received a quick response from the City of Kitchener that she called helpful and informative.

The response included Kitchener's bylaw process when identifying vacant tents. 

In a statement provided to CityNews 570, the City of Kitchener said that cleaning up abandoned tents has been their practice since the encampment began, and tents that are claimed or occupied are not removed.

The City of Kitchener also stated that they engage with encampment residents daily and continue to work with the Region of Waterloo and community partners to support residents to relocate to safer shelter options as they become available.


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