Developer proposes community of tiny houses for Gatineau campground

Camp Guertin was established in December after Devcore leaders decided to act following two deaths at a nearby makeshift camp in a city park.

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The Gatineau development company that spearheaded the establishment of a tent city next to the Robert Guertin Arena has proposed building a new community of tiny homes on the same site.

Devcore Group announced Tuesday that the Guertin camp, which includes 48 heated tents, would close as planned on May 15.

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Devcore volunteers and employees will then begin dismantling the camp, including its fences, bathrooms, security station, and warming hut.

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“Devcore has made the difficult decision to not continue (with the camp),” the company said in a press release.

He said the heat of the parking lot and construction at Guertin Arena (which is scheduled for demolition) made the site unsuitable for a summer camp.

People now living at the site will be allowed to keep their tents, Devcore said, along with all the equipment that comes with them, including lamps, beds, sleeping bags and storage containers.

The tents will be retrofitted with mosquito nets to make them more suitable for the summer months, said Sylvie Carbonneau, Devcore’s senior director of communications.

Devcore also announced that it had submitted a proposal to the city of Gatineau to build a community of tiny homes on the Guertin site.

Devcore and a group of private investors plan to invest up to $4 million in the plan if Gatineau agrees to provide municipal services, including water and sewer, to the community.

Carbonneau said the community would comprise 54 shipping containers, each divided into two or three housing units. All of them will be equipped with heating, air conditioning, bed, refrigerator, wardrobe, sink and toilet.

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“It’s really a small unit with everything someone needs to live,” Carbonneau said.

Under the proposal made to the city, tenants of the tiny houses would be charged $300 a month in rent.

The community will be able to house about 100 people and will include a community kitchen, a garden and a dog park, Carbonneau said.

The city of Gatineau is studying the proposal.

“Everyone is mobilized and wants to find a solution to this problem,” Carbonneau said.

Late last year, the city of Peterborough, Ontario, built 50 small modular homes on the outskirts of the city center to help its homeless population survive the winter. Each 107-square-foot, one-bedroom home cost about $21,000 and was equipped with a heating and air conditioning unit, double bed, mini refrigerator and dresser. The province of Ontario contributed more than $2 million to the project, which costs $1.9 million a year to operate.

Residents of the Peterborough tiny house community pay modest rents commensurate with their incomes.

Many housing advocates see tiny houses as a necessary measure to address Canada’s unprecedented homelessness crisis and an affordable source of emergency and transitional housing.

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Gatineau’s Camp Guertin was established in December after Devcore leaders decided to act following two deaths at a nearby makeshift camp in a city park. Camp residents burned hand sanitizer in metal buckets to stay warm and used candles for light.

Devcore president Jean-Pierre Poulin turned to business contacts and quickly raised $350,000 to launch Camp Guertin with the city’s approval.

The fishing tents were set up on wooden pallets and each had a light, a folding bed, an electric blanket and a heater. A safety station, a bathroom, a tent where campers could socialize, and a warm cabin were built. Local authorities also expanded social services to the community.

“We are very pleased with the results of this winter emergency measure,” said Poulin, founder and president of Devcore Group, and minority owner of the Ottawa Senators. “We close this chapter with pride, giving us the momentum to focus on phase two of the project.”

Nancy Martineau, director of humanitarian projects at Devcore, said no one at Camp Guertin died from exposure or lost limbs from frostbite, while two people were rescued from drug overdoses. “For us, this is a tremendous success,” she said.

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