'Where would you go?': Kitchener man speaks out about encampment evictions
An eviction notice has been issued to the people living at a downtown Kitchener encampment, but the question now is, where will they go?
The Region of Waterloo said everyone needs to move out of the Victoria and Weber Street site by June 30.
The region posted the notices at the encampment on Monday, June 5.
The region said the encampment has grown rapidly in the last few weeks and there are now more than 50 tents.
"That site in particular, over the last little while, has become unsafe," said regional Councillor Mike Harris on Monday. "It was at high risk, and for the safety of the individuals on the encampment and for the neighbours and businesses in the surrounding area, the region has taken action to serve notice."
MARK ASHLEY'S STORY
Mark Ashley used to stay at the Victoria Street encampment, but left two weeks ago, partially out of concern for his dog’s health.
"It's sad to think about how dangerous it is living down at that intersection, because of the lack of shade in the heat," said Ashley. "My dog wasn't going to survive."
Ashley moved to Civic Park, near the Kitchener Public Library. But on Friday, he was told by the City of Kitchener he had to leave by Tuesday, June 7.
"He was a very nice man, very well spoken," said Ashley. "He said: 'Mark, we've had a lot of complaints about you being here. We have to ask you to leave.'"
Ashley now has to figure out where he'll move next.
"I asked him: 'Where would you go if you were me? Who are these people who are complaining and where would they live if they were me?'"
It will be the second time he’s had to move in the past month
"THIS IS THE BEST PLACE"
Ashley said he likes his current spot, near the Kitchener Public Library, because it is safer and closer to community supports.
"I feel a lot safer knowing that there was a building here," he said. "So does Nicole, who lives in the building next door and works for 519, and they've been a great help."
Nicole Janssen works at 519 Community Collective, a grassroots support network.
"Mark's been moved 35 plus times," she said. "This is the best place he has had in those times and he has that sense of security, that sense of community."
When people are evicted from a public place, like an encampment, they are typically offered a place in an emergency shelter or a motel.
"This becomes very challenging because of a variety of reasons and is often regularly turned down because of mental and physical safety issues," said Leslie Compton, a housing advocate for The Unsheltered Campaign.
It's a common cycle for people who are unhoused. They feel like the emergency shelter system doesn't work for them and are left looking for a place to put up a tent.
Compton helps people like Ashley transition into housing.
Stop-gap measures like emergency shelters, she said, are often worse than living on the streets.
"You are having to give up your pets, your belongings, exposure to drugs and alcohol, [and] that is especially harmful for people successfully recovering."
"IS THIS EVER GOING TO CHANGE?"
Ashley is hoping to find a permanent place to live and get his life back in order.
"It could be an apartment, like a building here, that's convenient to me," he said. "An elevator for my dog, air conditioning. I'd like to go back to work if I could as a bricklayer. I could get off ODSP."
But until he finds some stability, Ashley has very little options.
"I would never want anyone to live this way," he said. "I'm not living. Wake me up at three in the morning to it raining, and everything getting soaking wet. My dog laying on the floor. I'm just like, ‘is this ever going to change?’"
Ashley also wants to see his family.
"I just want my life back," he said. "I want to see my mother."
The City of Kitchener told CTV News that an outreach group is close to securing temporary housing for Ashley, and it should be available next week. In the meantime, he can continue to stay in Civic Park.