At a special meeting on September 5, County Council heard detailed reports from Staff on the illegal encampment on the County property at 600 William street. The location is not a public park and houses several County departments, notably the paramedics and their ambulances. Council heard reports from Staff that emphasized the negative impact on their staff and the work that was being done to offer services to the campers. One key point was made that the campers have a hierarchy – that is, one unnamed individual wants all communication to go through him and therefore makes it difficult to have direct communication with individuals needing help. In some cases, individuals have agreed to accept help but have then been persuaded to decline help. The number of campers varies but is estimated at 15 to 20.
Problems with campers
Highlights of reports by CAO Jennifer Moore, Lisa Horne, Director Community & Social Services and Susan Brown, Chief of Northumberland Paramedics.
- The move from the West Beach to County Property at 600 William was their choice
- From the beginning, they were advised that their stay was not authorized and they would have to move.
- Some campers accepted services offered but others didn’t – acceptance is voluntary
- Initially there were 10 tents but this has changed with time.
- To ensure the safety of nearby County employees, there is security 24/7.
- At all hours, there are pedestrians, people on bicycles and cars dropping off people. This is a problem for ambulances who have 2 minutes to leave when on a 911 call.
- Campers often ask for food, washroom use and EpiPens. Despite provision of a Porta Potty, there is public urination and defecation
- They also try to enter the large waste containers which is a liability issue.
- There are sometimes fights between campers and confrontations with the security people.
- It’s a “growing challenge to get services out there”.
Given that the campers have been given plenty of warning that they will need to move and given that all have been offered help to find alternatives, Council decided to move the campers off County Property. “First steps” have now been taken and 24 hours notice provided – the site must be clear by noon September 6.
Where will they go?
Some individuals accepting help will go to Transition House (yes there is room there for some) or to a motel or back to their family.
No doubt some will continue to refuse help and it’s not known where they will go.
Separately, there is work being done to address the need for more housing that’s affordable.
Lucas Cleveland, Cobourg Mayor and County Councillor, wanted to make it clear that there is no silver bullet – this is a long ongoing process.
At the end of the meeting, a motion was passed to “remove the unauthorized encampment”.
County Motion to act on encampment at 600 William St.
That County Council receive the verbal update on the unauthorized encampment at 600 William Street, Cobourg for information; and
Further That County Council, having considered the update from County staff, and being satisfied that all practically possible and locally available options for alternative shelter and access to social services offered by the County and its community partner have been offered or made available to the persons encamped at 600 William Street, Cobourg, and having considered the actual and potential operational impacts to County services, including ambulance and community paramedicine services, as well as impacts to the property itself and other nearby properties, and considering the County’s obligations to the public and County staff including under the Occupiers Liability Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Ambulance Act, support and endorse the operational steps taken by County staff to date, and authorize and direct staff to exercise the County’s remedies pursuant to Trespass to Property Act to remove the unauthorized encampment in general accordance with the plan described in the staff update; and
Further That County Council hereby designate Integrity Investigative Solutions Limited (IISL) and Cobourg Police Services as agents of the County for the purposes of exercising any authorities under the Trespass to Property Act.
I saw only two Media representatives at the meeting, myself and Cecilia Nasmith of Today’s Northumberland. Go here for her report. It includes a photo of the eviction notice.
Update – 8 September
The County has issued a statement outlining what they have done on the above issue. I note that they have significantly improved shelter capacity .