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Rally held to support individuals to be evicted at Kitchener encampment

Chants and presentations were heard from supporters
Weber/Victoria Homeless Rally
Community members rally at the corner of Benton St and King St W / Brent Cater

A rally was held Wednesday night in support of individuals set to be evicted from an encampment at the corner of Weber Street West and Victoria Street North at the end of the month. 

Starting at 'speakers corner' at the intersection of Benton Street and King Street East in downtown Kitchener, hundreds of supporters marched holding signs and chanting up Weber Street heading past the encampment location back down to the corner of King and Benton. 

The nearly two hour rally began with presentations from community organizers and members in support of encamped residents including Melissa Bowman with the initiative 'yes in my backyard'. 

"Where are we expecting these residents to move to? We've heard that some residents have been offered emergency shelter and while this may work for some, know that there are many reasons that emergency shelters simply won't work for some people." 

Other presenters included members of Land Back Camp KW such as D, a two spirit Anishinaabe.

"Our housing crisis effects all of us, I personally have been homeless about three times in my life and every single time it was my community that caught me and saved me from way worse situations I could have been in." 

Amy Smoke with Land Back Camp KW, former homeless residents, members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and leaders of community initiatives like Michelle Mortensen with going mobile KW all spoke to supporters at the event, sharing stories and connections they may have personally had with homelessness. 

Following the march one of the organizers Kamil Ahmed spoke to CityNews 570 saying while he was happy about the turnout at the rally he remains mindful about those who didn't show up.

"I don't want to get delusional about it, sometimes Twitter and even protesting can feel like an echo chamber because there are a lot of people who care about our un-housed and vulnerable neighbours but, there's also a lot of people who don't." 

When asked what kind of response he would like to see from the region he simply said; put a stop, to evictions. 

"One of the four things we're calling on council and the community for is to stop all actions around evictions, you don't have a plan for that space right now anyway, let them stay and if you don't want them to say there then allow them to set up an encampment somewhere else like Charles Street terminal." 

Regional Chair Karen Redman spoke with CityNews 570 on Tuesday saying encamped residents have been notified by the region of shelter options but, as of Tuesday had yet to show interest in those options. 

When asked for a reply to that comment Ahmed shared a strong response.

"Karen Redman wake up, regional council wake up, you know that shelters are not permanent housing, you know that the needs of these people go well beyond what shelters can handle." 

Mortensen shared her feelings after seeing so many come out and support individuals experiencing homelessness. 

"Today felt inspiring because I challenged people to care, I challenged them to care enough to step out of their comfort zone and help out where they can whether it's financially or physically boots on the ground." 

In terms of a response to the region, Mortensen said what she wants to see is a plan. 

"They could have had a plan in place a couple years ago when the pandemic hit, there's not enough housing, there's no wrap around supports that exist for the people that are at that encampment, those are the people who have been banned from the shelters that they so quickly want to tell them to go to." 

As a final thought she outlined her reason for protesting at Wednesday's rally. 

"We're not here to save the planet, we're not here to save a soul, we're here to fill the need, the immediate need, they need a house, they need food, they need shelter, they need love and that sense of community. Putting these people in a whole other location and splitting them up is not the answer." 

Organizer Ahmed asked supporters as a next step to now write to regional councillors about their concerns and make their voices heard. 

When asked about future rallies and what may happen on eviction day, Ahmed says there are plans in the works, but they are not ready to share them with the public just yet. 

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