Last month, we shared a story about a homeless encampment at Belle Park in Kingston, Ontario.1 As of today, the site at Belle Park continues to operate with supports from the local government and community agencies.
The City has also signalled its intention to remove the encampment, and to open a permanent overnight drop-in space at a location that has yet to be determined.
Local opinion about these plans is mixed. At least one politician hoped City’s plan would work. To the politician’s dismay, a gofundme campaign raised $1,500 to help make the encampment more permanent. The people staying in Belle Park don’t see a drop-in space as a reasonable alternative. Meanwhile, the park’s neighbours want the encampment gone. See more in the Kingstonist: Mixed reactions to $1,500 raised for wooden shelters at Belle Park
In an earlier life, Belle Park was an industrial site. In Canada, it is quite common for such spaces to be transformed to parks. Elsewhere, it’s a different story. Take this example from Voi, in Kenya. People who could not afford housing in the community occupied an abandoned industrial site by the Voi river. They built temporary structures. Time passed. Eventually, after a lot of local political pressure, a community land trust was created. Ownership of the site was transferred to the community land trust and people who had been living there (some for as long as 30 years) were legally allowed to occupy the homes they had built.2
Clearly, Belle Park isn’t ready for a land trust today. But tomorrow? Who knows?
- See: Homelessness Underfoot: Grey Problems For Black And White Decision-Making
- For more on the Voi story, try: Advice on the potential use of community land trusts to create affordable housing in Rio de Janeiro.(pp 10-12)and Community Land Trust – Voi, Kenya.