Coming as a shock to park residents and the support workers who work to meet their needs, an encampment built in Memorial Park was dismantled by city bylaw enforcement officers Wednesday.
The teardown comes on the same day that the overnight, drop-in warming centre at YMCA Sudbury closes. The new cooling centre (which does not operate overnight) run by Sudbury Action Centre for Youth doesn’t open until tomorrow (July 1).
Sudbury.com was on the scene minutes after the teardown began and witnessed outreach workers trying to find out what was happening, how they could provide for those now displaced and where the belongings that were loaded into City of Sudbury vehicles was being taken and could be retrieved.
There was also great concern that most of the people in the encampment were planning on moving into the dense bush areas of the city, making them not only susceptible to bears and wildlife, but also unreachable by support and medical services.
When the encampment began to form once again in earnest, Sudbury.com reached out to the City of Greater Sudbury on June 22 and received a reply June 25. A statement was sent by Shannon Dowling, Communications and Engagement Advisor.
“We have received a number of public safety concerns about the well-being of a group of people who have taken up residency in Memorial Park,” stated Dowling in the response. “We respond immediately when these situations occur. Our priorities are to ensure public safety, support the well-being of vulnerable people, and provide support in the form of service options to those experiencing homelessness.”
Bylaw enforcement by the City of Greater Sudbury is a complaint-based system. In a June 11 interview with Melissa Laalo, Sudbury.com learned that bylaw enforcement does not have a set time limit. As long as the person receiving the notice of infraction is working toward a solution, they can use their discretion.
“Security Enforcement Officers have been attending Memorial Park daily to ensure people know the rules and to offer assistance with accessing resources and community outreach services,” continued Dowling in the city’s statement.
“The message that they cannot stay in the park overnight has been consistently delivered. Many have been receptive to receiving assistance and are being connected with services specific to their individual needs and service requests. A small number of these individuals have told us they are not interested in receiving the supports available to them. We continue trying to connect them to services that can assist them.”
The city then lists the emergency shelters available, noting the closure on June 30 of the overnight drop in centre. It is one place the park occupants could have gone after their displacement, but it will not be open this evening.
“Emergency shelter remains an option for people experiencing homelessness, including Cedar Place and the Off The Street Shelter. The YMCA Warming Centre, daytime and overnight drop-in centre, will operate until June 30. Starting July 1, Sudbury Action Centre for Youth (SACY) will be operating a daytime cooling centre in Boardrooms A-D at 199 Larch Street. All of these locations offer services to connect people with housing and health supports.”
More to come.