By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
A reported 30 to 60 homeless individuals are on the move after being evicted by Durham Regional Police.
The group were living in a tent city that had sprung up in an unoccupied sports field at the end of Quebec Street, west of Centre Street South.
The field is private property, and the owner had given police permission to remove them.
Daniel Cullen, a local homelessness advocate and founder of the Hope Coalition, pointed out the owner was well within his right to have them removed.
But Cullen says the problem is there is no where for these individuals to go.
“When the city has to move people along and not give them adequate places to live, they’re inadvertently walking on human rights of life, liberty, and security of persons according to the Charters of Rights and Freedoms, and adequate food, clothing and housing according to the economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms.”
Cullen says there are programs in place to address homelessness, but it’s a slow process.
But he stopped short of laying the blame at the feet of any government – whether municipal, provincial or federal.
“There are monies that are being released, but they’re being released slow. It’s an expedient problem that needs to be addressed, and it’s not being addressed properly,” he says.
He adds there is also action happening “behind the scenes” locally, but it’s “happening slower than it should.”
It is unclear where those evicted will go, although Cullen said likely “another city property.”
But that will be a short-term fix, with high rents, and stagnant incomes and unit availability.
“It’s a big systemic problem that’s not going to be addressed by shuffling people from one place to another one to another one,” he says.
Cullen says about three-quarters of all homeless people in Durham live in Oshawa. At any given time, there are 150 to 200 people sleeping outside in the city, he adds.
Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson says a minority of the homeless population don’t want help, and see fit to steal from or intimidate local residents.
“They don’t want to have a place where they have any rules,” he says. “They are drawing all the heat onto the people who really have needs. The sad part is they really don’t want any help.”
Christeen Thornton, founder of community outreach group DIRE, says while she doesn’t condone any criminal activity, the residents of the tent city are in crisis, and are instinctively trying to survive.
“I’m not endorsing it. They do need help and they do need intervention, but I don’t think people necessarily understand the whole picture,” Thornton adds.
In June, Nicholson told city council a number of residents in the Thomas Street-area were having items stolen from them by members of a tent city in the area.
The homeless individuals living near the Oshawa Creek were later cleared out, and the camp torn down. Council supported a plan to have a public meeting to address the situation, with community groups such as DIRE invited to participate.
But, the meeting has yet to take place, to the annoyance of Nicholson.
“The mayor is the only one with the authorization to call that meeting,” he states.
Thornton believes there is a will from some politicians and the community to fix the problem, but it can’t only be a local issue.
“I think that various members of city council and constituents, they are working very hard to address an issue which is well beyond our scope, financially, to solve as a community,” she says.
Nicholson believes there is sympathy in the community, but when there are criminal acts, it dries up quickly.
“They are burning their bridges,” he says.