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Updated homeless encampment strategy will expand list of 'no-go zones' in London

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London, Ont. is preparing to tighten the rules about where encampments of people experiencing homelessness will be permitted.

On Tuesday, council’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee (SPPC) will be asked to endorse a Community Encampment Response Plan that updates policies and procedures based on community feedback and the input of frontline agencies and stakeholders.

“All encampment protocols and proximities will be utilized at the discretion of the Community Informed Response team based on individual environment and circumstances,” states the report.

At a public meeting last month, the city unveiled a set of rules within encampments, plus a map of 14 parks and other public locations where tents will be subject to rapid removal.

According to the report, that list of no-go zones was expanded based on the feedback received during those public consultations, “These concerns have been addressed through the Community Encampment Response in communicating no-go zones, establishing proposed flexible proximities from specific sites, and updated protocols to ensure safety of unsheltered individuals and surrounding community.”

Encampments risk rapid removal (less than 24 hours) if they are:

  • within 50 metres of elementary schools, daycares, playgrounds, or pools
  • within 10 metres of private property lines, or railway tracks
  • within 5 metres of transit stops, or sports fields
  • inside off-leash dog parks
  • in cemeteries
  • in community gardens
  • on sidewalks or paths, in municipal parking lots, or under bridges
  • in doorways and blocking accessibility ramps
  • in other areas posing a safety risk (flooding, slope instability, etc.)

Rapid removal is conducted by the Community Informed Response Team, by-law enforcement officers, outreach workers, and the police, if necessary.

Individuals are notified and given time to relocate their encampment unless there is an immediate risk to safety.

However, Coun. Susan Stevenson has doubts about the updated strategy.

“I’m pretty disappointed with it, to be honest, because it’s expanding on rules at a time when we have no evidence we’re able to enforce the rules we have right now,” Stevenson told CTV News.

Encampments are also forbidden in the following 14 parks and other public locations:

  • 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)

The staff report explains that the encampment strategy’s policies do not apply to private property, “In those instances, it is up to the private property owner to have people vacate, either voluntarily or through a trespass to property order involving the London Police Service.”

An estimated 120 people and 15 pets are currently living in encampments that meet the municipality’s requirements.

Next week, council members will also consider funding the basic needs of people living in encampments, including the provision of three meals/day, water, waste management, hygiene stations, and harm reduction services.

It will cost the city $692,000 to have Service Depots offer basic supports until July 1, 2025.

Alternatively, it will cost $1,211,000 to provide basic supports to people living in encampments until the end of March 2026.

Stevenson is unhappy to see those costs fall on the municipality, “We’ve got people living in apartments all around [Old East Village] who don’t have food at the end of the month, so what about their human rights?”

Between 2021-2023, each year, an average of 84 people living unsheltered found housing.

An additional 24 people died.

Encampment Safety Protocols made public in May included:

  • 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

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