City and Partners Take Next Steps in Memorial Park Encampment Closure
Mar 15, 2022
Since October 2021, the City has been working with partners to make every attempt possible to connect with individuals living in Memorial Park and support them to secure a temporary or permanent housing option. The Leadership Encampment Table is moving forward with the next step in the encampment strategy and action plan with a planned closure of the remaining encampments within Memorial Park.
To develop a coordinated, supportive approach to addressing encampments, the City of Greater Sudbury engaged with consultant, Iain De Jong from OrgCode Consulting Inc. De Jong worked with staff to create an encampment strategy and action plan for the community to better address the needs of persons living unsheltered, which was subsequently approved by City Council on October 26, 2021. The aim has been to not just displace people experiencing homelessness to other locations, but to support them in resolving their homelessness.
Despite available shelter space (74 emergency shelter beds and 42 indoor warming spaces), those remaining in the park feel that emergency shelter services do not meet their needs. Of the 88 people who were living in the Memorial Park encampment on October 18, 2021, 76 have found housing or accepted services or shelter. Approximately nine people remain in the park encampment.
Considerations taken to come to the decision to move forward with the planned closure of the Memorial Park encampment include:
o Proximity to child-care and youth programming.
o Risks and potential risks of the site and/or people residing at the site, for example winter weather, attempts to access electricity.
o Length of time Memorial Park has been occupied.
o Impact on a municipal public space, for example damage to the park infrastructure and syringes discarded on the ground.
o Ongoing illegal activities.
o Refusal of three or more offers of service by remaining encampment residents.
On Tuesday, March 15, Encampment Closure Notices were posted throughout Memorial Park and issued to those living in the park, notifying them that they are required to vacate the public space by April 1. Community organizations, including By-law, Greater Sudbury Police Services, Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre, Social Services Client Navigators and the Community Outreach Team (Red Coats) are regularly on site to provide individuals with resources and information regarding access to housing, support services and shelters.
“Since the fall, we have helped numerous individuals living in Memorial Park find support and shelter,” said Greater Sudbury Deputy Mayor Al Sizer. “I cannot thank our partners and downtown businesses enough for the support and collaboration they’ve demonstrated as we continue to do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our community.”
Services to assist people experiencing homelessness, unsheltered or otherwise, are voluntary. Helping people to move off the site to shelter or other safe, appropriate alternatives requires an individual to voluntarily accept the services offered. Any property, including tent structures, left on site by the scheduled clean-up time will be subject to removal and immediate disposal. Enforcement, under the authority of the By-law will take place only as a last resort.
Crews will continue to clean up the park prior to the closure, and individuals living in the park will be provided totes to pack up their belongings. Once the encampment is closed, City crews will begin removing debris and restoring the grounds.
Outreach workers, Social Services Client Navigators and Municipal By-law will continue to work with individuals to connect them with programs and services regardless of where they may be residing in the community.
The encampment response plan will continue beyond this closure. The City is committed to meeting the needs of our unsheltered and unhoused residents by widely sharing information on available services and supports, however tenting structures will not be permitted within Memorial Park or at 199 Larch St.
Staff continue to make progress in addressing the various encampments throughout the city by offering assistance and obtaining consent to confirm registry information for the By-Name List, a real-time list of people experiencing homelessness in our community. Through these responses, the team has been able to connect with multiple individuals to work toward permanent housing solutions. To date, 219 people have been added to the By-Name List. Of the 219 individuals, 82 have been housed and 27 have been deactivated from the list due to a change in circumstances. There are currently 110 actively homeless on the list.
On November 23, 2021, Council voted to invest in Flex Funds which support persons wishing to relocate, return to home communities for family reunification, or for situations that cannot be easily resolved by existing funding sources. Flex Funds are administered by the City and have also been made available to homelessness service providers to administer directly from their programs. This allows a network of community partners to quickly support people experiencing homelessness to get into permanent housing.
The Elgin Street Mission and Blue Door Soup Kitchen reopened on March 14, offering indoor dining and drop-in services. The Blue Door Soup Kitchen is open for lunch Monday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Elgin Street Mission is open for breakfast Monday to Friday, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and for coffee, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. It is open for brunch Saturday and Sunday, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and open for dinner seven days a week from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Shower and laundry services are available Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people living unsheltered in Greater Sudbury increased. This was further impacted by the closure of in-person public services, supply of affordable housing and the opioid crisis. In particular, the number of people living in encampments in the downtown core increased significantly.
For up-to-date information on City initiatives to address homelessness, visit https://www.greatersudbury.ca/live/homelessness-initiatives/.
To view the encampment guide approved by City Council, visit https://www.greatersudbury.ca/live/homelessness-initiatives/latest-updates/greater-sudbury-encampment-response-guide/.