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Winter alternative for the homeless encampment being drafted

A unanimous city council has asked City of Greater Sudbury administration to come up with a plan to house vulnerable residents before the area is plunged into the depths of winter.
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The encampment at Memorial Park in downtown Greater Sudbury is seen earlier this month.

A unanimous city council has asked City of Greater Sudbury administration to come up with a plan to house vulnerable residents before the area is plunged into the depths of winter. 

The decision came at the close of tonight’s city council meeting and followed more than three hours of debate. 

This debate began during the Oct. 12 city council meeting, during which homelessness consultant Iain De Jong’s presentation on the city’s homeless encampment hit the meeting’s three-hour mark, at which time city council voted against extending proceedings. 

The denied extension meant the discussion continued tonight, during which it dominated the meeting. 

“I think this has been a very constructive conversation and it is a very significant issue,” Mayor Brian Bigger said on Tuesday, who also said the length of council’s discussion is a testament to how important they believe the issue of homelessness is.

Early in the meeting, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc presented a new motion alongside Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan.

Their motion, which was later defeated, would have called on staff to set up an alternative encampment at the Energy Court site as a temporary measure to include “ice fishing hut tents, clean drinking water, access to hygiene/sanitation facilities and waste management.”

“I’m suggesting we use the ice fishing huts, as it creates their own space, and if we’re going to invest we have to start somewhere and we have to start today,” Leduc said. 

Included in Leduc’s presentation was a video about a similar encampment set up in Denver, Colo. 

In response to the proposal, De Jong said it’s not an approach he would take or endorse.

“Our firm believes in making homelessness rare, brief and one-time,” he said. “We don’t believe in managing or perpetuating homelessness, we believe that if we’re going to find temporary solutions they shouldn’t be outside, they should be indoors with facilities and that we should look at everything from … retail spaces to warehouses.

“We would love to continue to assist the City of Greater Sudbury, but we have no interest in assisting the city if they go the route of a sanctioned encampment.” 

Mayor Brian Bigger also noted that it’s much warmer in Denver than it is in Greater Sudbury.

Following additional discussion, a vote was called in which only Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier joind Leduc and Kirwan in supporting the plan.

With this defeated, Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier requested staff draft a replacement motion that would have them bring an indoors solution back to city council as soon as possible.

“I don’t believe people have to be outside, especially in the winter,” he said. 

De Jong affirmed that he is “absolutely willing to embrace the opportunity to work with the community to come up with alternate solutions.”

Although he has other responsibilities, he said that he’d strive to get something drafted in “weeks, not months, and that the shorter period of time the better.” 

“Human lives are in the balance and we need to work with expediency in this regard.”

The final motion approved unanimously by city council read: 

That staff continues developing a plan based on, among other sources, the Encampment Response Guide, that includes:

  • A) The strategies described in the staff report entitled, “City of Greater Sudbury Encampment and Action Plan,” and as part of their next steps, include an assessment of the potential for increasing the availability of appropriate indoor shelter for vulnerable population members, and; 
  • B) Report regularly on the plan’s progress at each City Council meeting beginning with the November 23rd meeting. 

With that, the city council meeting hit the three-hour mark and a vote was called on whether the meeting should be extended. 

The final vote was 5-7, and with a two-thirds majority required the meeting promptly ended after the reading of bylaws on the agenda. 

The following councillors voted against extending the meeting: Kirwan, Leduc, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyn Landry-Altmann, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti and Ward  3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier. 

As evidenced by the four COVID-19 response updates on tonight’s agenda, city council’s inability to complete agendas has been an ongoing issue

“We’re getting into a heavy season of finance meetings as well, so I will work with our city clerk to identify a meeting date in the near future to catch up on our council meetings,” Bigger said. 

The majority of tonight’s agenda, which also included much of the Oct. 12 agenda and some of the previous two agendas, will now carry forward to the next city council meeting. 

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.





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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.
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