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Advocates address Kitchener councillors after camp-out in Victoria Park

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Advocates addressed the homelessness crisis in Kitchener at a city council meeting Monday night.

This comes after a camp-out in Victoria Park that happened amid a warning from the city and under the watchful eye of bylaw officers.

The event was called "The Unhoused Experience: 24hr Challenge.” 

Tents went up in the park but the group left the area just after midnight on Friday after bylaw asked them to up.

Ahead of that event, the City of Kitchener warned that fines or trespass notices would be handed out if tents were put up and if the event went later than 11:00 p.m.

On Monday, the city said no tickets were issued and those taking part complied with the bylaws.

The event was organized in response to a clash in the park last month, where three demonstrators were charged after the city closed off access to Roos Island in an effort to get those living there to leave.

The incident stirred up some controversy. A lawyer representing the encampment residents in court called for the Region of Waterloo to take a new approach to the housing crisis.

"That foundation makes the actions on April 26 and 27 feel like a train that has jumped the tracks," said David Alton of the Social Development Centre of Waterloo Region at the Monday night council meeting. "It is bumpy and messy right now, but the track is right there and we have the tools to get back on.

"With the help of community partners, it is quite possible to meet this standard going forward."

Organizers say the Unhoused Experience event stayed peaceful.

“It was taking up space in the park, being visibly present. We had a tent up – it was in defiance of the city’s order that there are no more campers allowed in the park,” said Jamie Stief a co-organizer of the event.

Stief told CTV News their interactions with bylaw were not unpleasant.

“So, it wasn’t that they were rude or aggressive. Again, I have the privilege of most of my interactions with law enforcement are not rude or aggressive, but it was clear they were asking us to leave and eventually we did,” Stief said.

The city said they’re working on securing housing for the two remaining campers on Roos Island, with access to the island expected to reopen in phases late this summer.

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