Kingston UPDATE: More “band aids” for city’s homeless while homeowners cope with crime

The City of Kingston seems to be scrambling to meet a high demand for stable, long-term housing for people living with homelessness.

A few weeks ago, I travelled to Kingston, Ontario to report on what local residents are calling the “Kingston hot potato”.

Residents from the neighbourhood of Kingscourt have seen increasing incidents of crime, drug use and paraphernalia remnants discarded irresponsibly with the addition of the “Integrated Care Hub” at Artillery Park — a temporary housing solution in a community centre, for those in need of shelter and safe consumption.

What’s interesting is that proposals by Kingston’s town council seem to be in conflict with their municipal housing strategy to prevent concentration of “Non-Market Rate Housing” which their own report states is a large contributing factor in the health of a community.

Kingston Town Council had previously offered amenities to the homeless community at the entrance of Belle Park, but individuals taking up residence here were forcibly evicted on September 1.

As a result, this care hub has seen a huge increase in visits; they are averaging approximately 60-70 individuals for overnight stays and hundreds throughout the day. The use of this care hub has been extended until October 31.

I caught up with Peter, a disabled elderly man living with homelessness.

He has concerns that incidents such as forcible eviction triggers undue trauma for the most vulnerable individuals, and suggested that what the community needs most is stable, long-term housing, properly trained support staff, and adequate supervision for those most in need.

Kingston Town Council has since proposed another temporary solution at 661 Montreal Street, a likely co-location site where safe consumption is offered to those struggling with addiction. They will allocate $60,000 for renovations that, under COVID Emergency Orders, are completely exempt from the Building Code Act and can also completely bypass zoning and by-law regulations under the Planning Act. Bypassing these checks and balances will ensure the space is hurried along and ready by October 31.

But will the building be safe and suitable? Is it big enough? Rushed renovations seem like a possible recipe for disaster.

Looks like another quick fix for a year while the city continues to ignore the concentration of non-market rate housing in the north end of Kingston, as they pass around the hot potato.