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'We’re being kicked out': Encampment residents ordered to leave Cambridge’s Soper Park

Less than one month after a large encampment in Cambridge was cleared, a new one in Soper Park is drawing concerns.

In August, the remaining residents left the encampment located at 150 Main Street in Cambridge.

Region of Waterloo officials said the site, which was home to up to 50 people at one point, was closed after the people still living there were offered housing alternatives and agreed to leave.

SOPER PARK ENCAMPMENT

Meanwhile, a short walk away on Shade Street, another encampment began to grow at Soper Park.

Residents of that encampment told CTV News they received notices of trespassing from the City of Cambridge on Friday.

The notices said if people don’t leave by Wednesday, they could face charges or fines for trespassing.

The land belongs to both to the city and the Canadian Pacific Kansas City Limited.

“They’re telling us to go over by Samuelson Street which is by the railroads. This is what we’re told now. We’re being kicked out of the railroad here, now we’re being told to go back over by the railroads. Does that make sense? No,” said Heidi, an encampment resident.

Heidi said the people living at the encampment have nowhere else to go.

“There’s only two shelters in Cambridge, the battered women’s shelter and a men’s shelter. So, where do we go? Unless you’re battered you can’t go to the women’s crisis shelter,” she said.

Residents at the encampment said it isn’t easy to deal with the burden of having to relocate.

“I’m not one of the persons that would like to commit suicide or would be involved in committing suicide, but sometimes I feel that weight on my shoulders. Just to carry on another day is kind of sad,” said Jordan Burrows, another encampment resident.

TOWN HALL

Last week, Cambridge residents shared concerns about the encampment at a safety town hall meeting at city hall.

“We need facilities for mental health and drug addiction where they go and they stay,” one resident said at the meeting on September 18. “No getting out.”

Waterloo Regional Police were not available for an interview, but at the meeting a week ago Chief Mark Crowell said it’s a difficult situation.

“We can’t simply sweep people off the street to make problems go away. We need to find effective, collaborative, compassionate responses to deal with the people that you mentioned” Crowell said at the time.

Anti-poverty advocate Marjorie Knight said each time encampments are cleared out, they have to move somewhere new.

“I think it is a cruel, cruel game. It’s a game of whack-a-mole, where it’s ‘if you land here, I’ll come and I’ll kick you out, and you go over there, and nowhere to rest your head,” said Knight.

CITY AND REGION RESPONDS

In an email to CTV News, the City of Cambridge said it is trying to help.

“The city’s focus continues to be on assisting people in encampments and connecting them with the region’s outreach team and more appropriate housing and community supports,” the statement read in part. “Together with our Regional and Community Partners, we work towards long-term solutions for housing affordability.”

The Region of Waterloo said in a statement that they will continue to provide connections to community supports and said “outreach staff and region-funded outreach partners have been engaging with individuals at the encampment in Soper Park.”

Residents of the encampment said they don’t know where they will go if they’re forced to leave on Wednesday.

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