‘This is not who we are’: eviction from Kitchener camp addressed at regional council on Monday

KITCHEN – The eviction of five homeless people from a regionally owned strip of land was poorly managed and “was not what we are,” the region’s top official said Monday.

“There is no question that our approach on Friday was wrong and as Managing Director I take full responsibility,” Bruce Lauckner told regional councilors at a budget meeting Monday afternoon.

Lauckner apologized for the way people they were evicted on friday of a strip of public land about 10 meters from the light rail tracks that run through the center of Charles Street in downtown Kitchener.

Ordinance officers delivered the eviction notices, but called police and extension workers after two of the squatters refused to leave. An excavator was used to clean up the campers’ belongings, including a sofa and mattress.

Lauckner accepted responsibility for the way the eviction was handled, saying “we have to do better and we will do better.”

“Seeing the images on Friday affected a lot of people a lot. It hit me hard. This is not who we are, ”he said.

The eviction was carried out by two ordinance officers. About six police officers and some outreach workers were present. Police were called after two of the five campers refused to leave.

The regional ordinance acted after receiving complaints from residents, who were concerned about public safety, including proximity to a high school and bus stop, as well as discarded needles, said Rod Regier, commissioner for planning, development and legislative services.

Staff from the licensing and compliance division visited the tents and discovered that it was on public property and had been there since late September.

They followed the procedure to evict people from regional property, outlined in a 2013 statute, Regier said. The statute includes provisions to call the police if necessary.

Regier said the licensing and compliance division contacted regional housing staff.

“These staff worked with mobile homeless outreach services to meet and connect with people in the camp (and) assist them with information on the availability of shelter and support,” he said.

“While these conversations about services were taking place, we can confirm that there was enough space in the shelter system for everyone in the camp.”

On November 24, the eviction notice was hand-delivered and placed in the tents, detailing an order to vacate the area by November 26 at 9 a.m. M.

Regier said that when staff arrived at the camp on Friday at 10 a.m., only two of the five people who lived there remained and said they had no intention of leaving.

That’s when the police were called, he said, and they arrived 45 minutes later. The remaining two people left at 2 pm and the cleaning of the leftover personal belongings began.

Regier said heavy equipment was used due to unsanitary conditions, large items such as a mattress and sofa, and exposed sharp objects.

“While the decision to remove belongings with heavy equipment was made to protect the health and safety of staff and the community, the way it was carried out does not reflect the dignity of those who live in the camp,” he said.

Lauckner said the region is still waiting to hear from extension services about the well-being of the five people who were evicted.

On Saturday, the region said a review of this eviction process would be conducted, including ways to improve it in the future. Questions of whether the police should be involved in this process will be addressed, as the report is being worked on throughout December, Lauckner said.

Coun. Sean Strickland described the eviction as a “complete governance and operational collapse” within the region.

“For such a delicate operation and contemplating the use of such an inordinate amount of force, the council and the president needed to be informed,” Strickland said.

Regional council president Karen Redman did not comment or ask questions of regional staff.

Cheyenne Bholla is a reporter for The Record in the Waterloo region. Contact her by email: [email protected]


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