Will theft and property damage subside if King & Borden becomes the next “Better Tent City” – Discussion

A Better Tent City is a new solution for the homeless; a cluster of shed like structures to help house people who are not sheltered in the shelter system. They have access to a communal kitchen, showers and bathrooms. The ability to have access to a hot shower is understandably appreciated as well as the sense of security. At the moment, there are under 20 units and they are temporarily located on Lot 42, 41 Ardelt Place.

Lot 42 is zoned in a Heavy Industrial (M4) zone and the closest residential homes are 1.3 kms away. It isn’t in anyone’s backyard so they can easily avoid any NIMBY-ism. Honestly, I feel a lot of people would agree with me that this type of location is the best. They have privacy and they are not affecting anyone’s personal investment.

As much as people hate NIMBY-ism, the homeowner’s opinion should be considered since they are the stakeholders who have invested into the City for years and the City in turn, has zoning rules to maintain stable investments. Ignoring that zoning, or weaving in-between loopholes shouldn’t be accepted by the Planning Department or City Council. Especially if it’s being lead by someone who was once a public servant as the Chief Administer Officer for the City of Kitchener.

But the Ardelt Place location is only temporary and on their presentation 1001 King St E seems to be Stage 2. 1001 King St E is located between Ottawa and Borden, it is surrounded by family homes, schools and daycares. DTK residents by the way that have been pillaged during COVID-19 with a unprecedented amount of theft and property damage. Understandably, people who feel left behind are upset and enraged without their needs being met. As well as not having a permanent private residence to hide in and for the last few months they have been taking it out on the DTK neighbourhoods.

So, as most of you know, my thing is to end homelessness, to encourage the availability of starter homes and increase the supply of rentals. We have to encourage multiple solutions to fix our housing crisis because the current situation is dire. Will 1001 King St E fix DTK’s current spike in crime? Or will it depend on how many units they can supply? Is there a sweet spot? If they fill the whole lot with units will it be perceived as a ghetto? Will it actually become a ghetto? And where is our Planning Department to allow multiple sheds on one property? I wonder if I would be allowed to have 10 sheds in my next backyard…

Read Civic Hub’s full presentation here: https://civichubwr.org/wp-content/uploads/LiVinci-Final-Presentation-1.pdf

Differing opinions with or without solutions are encouraged.

Reference for news article on making “A Better Tent City.”



Kelly-Ann Callaghan Co-founder

send your opinions to info@thebrassbugle.com

Updated** June 19th 2020

I made the mistake of not including my background with or around homelessness. In this political climate, people are quick to jump and label people as Alt Left or Alt Right without giving grace that someone could want a balanced solution that helps everyone who lives in the City of Kitchener.

I didn’t include it before because it seems self congratulatory and awkward. But for most of my adult life I have raised money for local homeless programs. Sorting food at the Food Bank, donating when I can to the different shelters throughout DTK and mostly harassing everyone I know about donating for the Coldest Night of the Year – every year whether I was walking or not. To be mostly ignored. Neighbours who love to complain about the problems but not willing to put their money where their mouth is and help fix the issue. Sorry but that’s how I feel.

Community Event of Art Installation in DTK

As a young child, I had an uncle that my father took care of that had a mental breakdown and suffered from mental health and addictions. I realized then, that without a home he couldn’t be helped lifted to be the best person he could be. If he went off his meds and drifted away, a stable home allowed Police to bring him back. It allowed Public Health nurses to come in and check on him. It allowed him to volunteer and contribute to society versus being a threat. An unmedicated paranoid schizophrenic is a threat, something we dealt with regularly in our home. I recognize this is not the average homeless person. That a lot of people lose a job, were in a bad relationship or were grieving a loss and then become homeless. The current shelter systems in Kitchener, do everything they can to help the majority of people who fall into homelessness. You need to be non-violent and not using and be able to listen to the rules and you are welcomed into our local shelters. 

Which relates as to why I am concerned about this Better Tent City more and more I read about it. In my opinion, people who do not want to be in a shelter or are not welcome into a shelter need the most assistance. They need to have better safer homes. Being clustered together in something that is called “better than a tent” in a “city” is not okay. No matter where they move their BTC, whether it is Site 2, or somewhere else. There should be a shed cap made by CoK or RoW Planning. For the safety of the people living in these sheds, they should be max capacity at 20 units and should be 10ft apart. I am afraid without heating, with or without insulation, someone will make their own heat sources. In the current setting, if one catches fire, will they all go up in flames? 

Before COVID I would have said on the topic of homelessness, you are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. But watching regular filmed footage of a friend’s home being damaged has made me realize what King East Neighbourhood deals with on a regular basis. I have been told, in the past, that they have tried to email their Councillor and it has fallen on deaf ears. I know personally, I have been told by CoK Council that you can’t control what people do on private property. But that is a lie, that is exactly what zoning does. It tells you what you can and cannot do on your private land. 

So – with a little background information on myself – and without just commenting and calling me alt right – if you’re okay with a BTC on King St E, that’s fine. But if you want to see some change, what would you change? Would it make programs more spread out throughout the core of our cities? Do you feel that there needs to be a cap on the amount of sheds or are you willing to raise money for a better solution? Whether that’s from your own pockets or putting pressure on local government to reallocate some funding that way? Finally, with COVID and what is happening there (KENA), who should take responsibility? Ditching and allowing these families to suffer by themselves without support is not okay either. I am not saying “Away with the homeless people!” I am saying “How can we help and can that small community really support another homeless service?” 

10 thoughts on “Will theft and property damage subside if King & Borden becomes the next “Better Tent City” – Discussion

  1. All I see in this article is ignorance. Again marginalized are further being stigmatized. I live downtown and I welcome this initiative. It is time for the privileged to get a reality check.

    1. I live in DTK too, I see the property theft posts daily. I see how friends of mine feel unsafe in their home and I worry for their mental well being. Constantly having your home invaded is not nice. People who live closest to King St seem to be affected the most. On the other side of Weber, I do not have as much damage happening but only a few random incidents. I feel location is imperative. Also, I feel that living in a shed is not adequate. That they are branding it “better” than a tent. These cabins(sheds) are not insulated and do not have bedroom fire code safety. Do not be fooled, they are not that much “better.” Someone who is homeless does deserves better, they should be able to sleep safely and get help if they want it. As well as, they shouldn’t be forced together in a large “tent city”. We need to do better than a tent, we need to voice for more and having a city of sheds is not better. Voice your opinion to the Region for proper shelter that is up to code and do not dismiss my lifetime of work to end homelessness as NIMBYism.

  2. Although I do agree that we must work towards increasing more, better, and diverse affordable and supportive housing options, I do have some concerns about the framing of this article. I’m curious about this statement in particular “As much as people hate NIMBY-ism, the homeowner’s opinion should be considered since they are the stakeholders who have invested into the City for years and the City in turn, has zoning rules to maintain stable investments.”
    How are the homeowner’s opinions not currently ‘considered’?
    What would you like to see in place that would improve this engagement?
    What role do folks experiencing homelessness or precarious housing (such as those living in A Better Tent City) have in this process?
    And finally, can you tell me more about ‘zoning rules to maintain stable investments’? I have done a bit of reading about why we have zoning bylaws and I haven’t come across anything about protecting ‘stable investments’. Are you able to point me towards that at all? I have found this from the ministry’s page “The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is a consolidated statement of the government’s policies on land use planning. It gives provincial policy direction on key land use planning issues that affect communities, such as:
    efficient use and management of land and infrastructure
    the provision of sufficient housing to meet changing needs, including affordable housing
    the protection of the environment and resources including farmland, natural resources (for example, wetlands and woodlands) and water
    opportunities for economic development and job creation
    the appropriate transportation, water, sewer and other infrastructure needed to accommodate current and future needs
    the protection of people, property and community resources by directing development away from natural or human-made hazards, such as flood prone areas”

    1. So many questions, I apologize if my answers are choppy.
      By your statements, do you feel that the CoK does not have the responsibilities to protect and provide for it’s citizens? You have spoken yourself in front of Council specifically stating that they need to stop listening to homeowners. That new developments need to take priority. It is stated in the City’s Official Plan but I do not want to be distracted with a political red herring. If you wanted to contribute solutions to the article above or simple state that you are fine with the BTC being implemented on Site 2, that is fine. Or submit your own opinion piece about how you feel that the homeowners voice does not need to take priority when it comes to housing.
      I’ve been told by neighbours who live in King East that their emails in the past have been ignored by our Councillor. That their voice is not being heard and they feel abandoned. Their Councillor is their way to be heard, but not if they’re being ignored.
      As I am sure you are aware, the CoK has made a Affordable Housing Strategy and has created their own Advisor committee from marginalized individuals and NPOs organizers who work the frontline. -Kelly-Ann

  3. I’ll preface this by saying I’m a supporter of these tent city initiatives and a resident of DTK.

    I would dispute the characterization of municipal zoning as a tool for homeowners to “maintain stable investments” (in paragraph 3). The zoning bylaws exist to help the city enact whatever goals it has in its urban plan, and that urban plan has too long been focused on housing as a form of investment instead of around meeting fundamental needs of Kitchener residents. So I would say that this is not abusing loopholes or going against the purpose of zones but finally addressing a need that was not being met. I hope this isn’t a mischaracterization of what you were trying to say and would be curious your thoughts on this.

    Secondly, you mention “DTK residents by the way that have been pillaged during COVID-19 with a unprecedented amount of theft and property damage.” I’d love to see this sourced using crime stats, or news reporting around the issue of a crime spike during COVID. But if this comes from anecdotes seen on social media or conversations with neighbors and friends, that needs to be stated outright instead of being presented as fact.

    1. Hey thanks for prefacing your post, I do not feel that this is addressing their needs. Addressing their needs would be providing housing that requires permit approval homes that are are up to code. Homeless need homes. Not Sheds. Along with social services to prevent police intervention. People want to feel like they’re making a change, which I applaud, but we need to ensure it is proper and safe and the community surrounding it is being helped at the same time. On your second point, we will have to wait until 2021 before we get proper police reports. If you do not count filmed footage as facts, than that’s your point of view. Residents who actually live in KENA understand and have their own trauma from lack of safety they face. Saying we must give up one for the other is not okay. We need to keep on working on a safer city for everyone. – Kelly-Ann Callaghan

  4. Hi Kelly-Anne
    Interesting idea about the sheds but I guess my question is what do the homeless people think about this solution and location. What are they saying their needs are, do they like this idea, do they feel this would help them, would they use them and be responsible for the space, can they manage the expectations that would inevitably be tied to them?

    1. I respect that we need to hear from them, I know the CoK already does this. But what about safety? Are the sheds up to fire code for sleeping in? Two exit points right? Are they going to be clustered close together? Goodness forbid one caught fire, would they all? Then as a community would we hold Civic Hub responsible? We have a responsibilities to provide safe adequate housing, not something just better than a tent. But that’s just my point of view.

  5. Hi Kelly, thanks for being open to these conversations and I appreciate your good intentions for the homeless. I personally think that King Street East would make a great location for a better tent city. And they could probably put one up on city owned land on the other side of downtown.
    I want to acknowledge the biases in your article that you may not realize. It is quite directly advocating on behalf of homeowners, discussing how they must be satisfied, that they are ‘invested stakeholders’ (as opposed to the lifelong citizens without homes in the tent cities?), describing the circumstances of the poor using language like “pillage”, and framing the solutions to homelessness (and the article) in how it will reduce crime and property damage rather than how it will increase health and safety of the homeless. The statement you make about “we all hate NIMBY’s but….. ” seems self-defeating. You can certainly balance the needs of the homeless and those of homeowners, but the language here almost precludes appropriate consideration of the needs and wants of the homeless.

    I have several things I would like to add and respond to. For one, Zoning has almost always been a tool of exclusion against the poor and rarely is it about safety. Single-family, low density, industrial, commercial, and other zones exclude homeless people. Stating that the current location is an acceptable exception to zoning because it doesn’t bother anyone (that’s a NIMBYism btw) is also not suitable for the people who are living there because it is so far from everything they would need, like services, food, and public transport. Also, their current location, which is not permitted according to zoning, makes their occupation conditional on the approval of council, which is not very stable. “Preserve neighbourhood character” is often coded language for “no poor or racialized people here”.
    two, there will probably always be people who cannot be housed, either in community housing, affordable housing or in a shelter. For whatever reason. As people who want to help them, it is not for us to tell them they are wrong and they should just suck it up. If they don’t like the shelter and prefer a tent, we should meet them where they are at. Maybe their problem with housing is they are asocial, or they are really bad at managing their time and miss the deadlines to get ODSP. You can build really fancy, suitable housing, but that isn’t going to be suitable or helpful for everyone.
    three, Having services and things for the unsheltered spread out across the city might not be helpful for those who access them. As an example: people go to walmart because you can get everything you could ever need at the same place, saving time. Now imagine you have no car, and you have to walk to a bathroom, walk to a shower, walk to breakfast at a place, walk to another place for lunch, and a third place for dinner, then you have to walk to a cooling centre in another place. Not only is this a cost for them that makes it difficult to do other things, like find a job and housing, it makes it difficult for people to provide the support they need. Having everything in one place makes it easier for everyone, and having a community of people in similar circumstances provides support and friendship as well.
    four, Yes, I agree that the best thing would be if the shelters in the tent city were up to code for safety. BUT, seeing as nobody is putting up the money for that, I think this is as good a measure as any. Also, it’s important to acknowledge that permits and codes, like zoning, are a barrier for poverty. Getting one building that is up to code would probably cost as much as all the cabins they have so far combined.
    five, Homeownership is not the only way to be stably housed and promoting it as such may exacerbate our current affordability crisis. The only way affordable housing for private ownership can be made, and made sustainably, is if the value of everyone’s house fell. Build more purpose built rental, more social housing, more cooperatives, more supported housing, more secondary units, more three story walk ups, more of everything, but not for private ownership and retirement pensions.

    The reason homeless people need more representation vs. homeowners is because homeowners already have a lot. I would bet that most councilors are homeowners. There are also homeowners associations and real estate agents to lobby for that. And homeowners also have the power choose to sell and leave to another place. Homeless people have nothing except what is given to them, and usually that is the stick.

    With all that said, I think that solutions like a better tent city have great potential to address needs and balance the concerns of homeowners. If it is easy for someone to get their needs met, and they have a community to which they can be accountable, and have a space they can keep their own with a lock, I think that even being in a location like DTK will not pose a serious problem. The challenge is lack of power and representation in the government they can vote for, discriminatory zoning, opposition from neighbours who stigmatize the homeless as criminal and morally judge their circumstance, and a bureacratic system that acknowledges the dangers of homelessness, but puts up barriers to effectively combat it. I’m sorry for giving such a long comment.

    1. Hey,
      I’m sorry, I literally had to delete over 100 spam comments selling medications to get to yours, I apologize for the delay.

      I made this article as olive branch to people I know in my community that feel under represented. That their neighbours in adjacent neighbourhoods dismiss with toxic positivity. “Cheer up, you might feel unsafe every night when you go to bed, but it will get better soon, just wait!” Gentrification has painted DTK with shiny new buildings to distract from people scraping by around the corner. They pretend that more buildings, create more supply and therefore will fix our housing and homeless issue. But that theory only works if people are living in these condos and we are keeping up with the steady flow of Toronto people moving here. Nevermind a large portion of our condos are empty because people are holding onto them for investments. But back to my main point; I made this post for the people of King East Neighbourhood to feel heard. That I hear that they are overwhelmed and their Councillor did not respond (until I wrote this) because it isn’t the popular comment with all of Ward 10. For that, no matter what your opinion is, or anyone else’s opinion is, I have helped a community air out some dirty laundry that has been ignored for too long and I am happy.

      I agree that we need more well rounded representation at City Council, but that requires people to vote in a diverse group of people – and I can only pray that after 2020 that will change.

      I completely disagree with having it in one place. I wonder how fluent you are with our homeless or “on assistance” community. How far (and hard) it is to travel by foot to our Food Bank. The hills carrying food is torture. I’ve done it once, my prize; a rotten sack of potatoes. Lot 42 is close to Hanson/Homer Watson and that is just under a 6km walk (over an hour) one way to pick up food from our main food bank in the region. If you actually believe that people who are homeless or close to it do not travel, you are sadly mistaken. It’s the same BS with the safe site injections, people come and live everywhere who need help. You do not have to place all resources in one spot. The affordable housing program through the region is blended beautifully and in my opinion, we should follow that model.
      To quote you:
      “…the best thing would be if the shelters in the tent city were up to code for safety. BUT, seeing as nobody is putting up the money for that, I think this is as good a measure as any. ”
      Did you actually read what you wrote? Do you feel homeless people do not deserve to have a safe shelter? Are their lives worth less to you? I wish that every person who felt a sense of relief when they read the articles about the “Tent City” instead donated $5 for proper permanent shelter. Or to pay for two apartments in every rental building in the region. That would be a realistic long lasting solution instead of people who are in planning deciding that unsafe shelters are best for people who are struggling to survive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *