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First look at London’s updated rules and restrictions for homeless encampments

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Pets on leashes, a fire ban, and an age restriction, are some of the rules unveiled as part of London’s updated strategy for homeless encampments.

On Tuesday evening, dozens of people filled a meeting room inside the Earl Nichols Recreation Centre to provide feedback about the city’s proposed update to the Encampment Strategy before it’s officially presented to city council for endorsement.

Instead, what city staff heard were frustrated Londoners voicing their concerns about the ongoing homelessness crisis.

“For the past year, I’ve been having to navigate trying to get us housed because we don’t fall under [the city’s] urgent status or high-needs status,” Mel Sheehan shared about her and a roommate’s struggle being precariously housed.

Old East Village resident Justin Bardawill called for a renewed sense of urgency, “What’s it going to take for you folks to declare a State of Emergency?”

Deputy City Manager of Social and Health Development Kevin Dickins asserted that solutions take time, “We didn’t get into this overnight, and we’re not going to get out of it overnight, but there are many things happening.”

The proposed plan for pathways out of encampments and into housing would represent a fundamental shift in how homelessness is addressed in London.

The updated Encampment Strategy unveiled to the public includes restrictions on their locations plus a set of rules for people living in tents or makeshift shelters.

 

Encampment Safety Protocols

  • No more than six tents/shelters per encampment
  • No open fires or combustibles
  • Minors under 16 years old will be reported to Children’s Aid Society (CAS)
  • No used or uncapped needles around the site
  • Pets must be on a leash when outside a tent
  • A muzzle is required if a pet is known to be violent
  • Human trafficking is not tolerated and will be reported
  • Intimidation, physical violence, or threats towards neighboring tents, community residents, or staff providing services will not be tolerated
  • Brandishing weapons will not be tolerated
  • No large amounts of garbage, food waste, or hoarding
  • Tents can’t be near a playground, pathway, open area of play, or on a flood plain, river embankments, roadways, private property, side walks, or bus shelters

Encampments set up in the following 14 parks and additional public locations will face “a rapid enforced closure”

  • Gibbons Park
  • Piccadilly Park
  • McMahen Park
  • Boyle Park
  • Queens Park
  • CNRA Park
  • Wellington Valley Park
  • Thames Park
  • Harris Park
  • Lorne Ave Park
  • Victoria Park
  • Ivey Park
  • Campbell’s Park
  • Springbank Park
  • Municipal Lot 1 (OEV)
  • Municipal Lot 2 (OEV)
  • Centre of Hope
  • UTRCA property
  • Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs)
  • Streets / pathways

A map showing some of the locations where the Encampment Strategy forbids tents/shelters. ( Source; City of London)Dickens believes proactive outreach and relationship building with encampment residents will lead to compliance — but enforcement remains an option.

“If there’s an encampment that’s in a [restricted] location or there’s an imminent safety risk and we need to disperse that encampment, we would do that in collaboration with the Coordinated Informed Response Team in partnership with the outreach workers, but also with support of police services,” Dickins explained.

In June, a report about the Encampment Strategy will be presented to council, incorporating the public feedback.

“I think it’s actually too much in some respects,” Bardawill told CTV News after the meeting. “I don’t see the problem with it if [unhoused Londoners] are going into some of these parks — it beats having them hanging out on my boulevard.”

Sheehan believes the strategy will let too many of the 2,000 Londoners experiencing homelessness slip through the cracks, “There’s still at segment of the population that’s living unhoused that isn’t involved in this plan.”

A second public meeting about the Encampment Strategy and Pathways to Housing will be held on Thursday, May 23, 6 – 7:30 p.m. at East Lions Community Centre.

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