Kingston's low-barrier shelters in the spotlight after Integrated Care Hub evictions

With the residents of encampments near the Integrated Care Hub (ICH) mostly moved out now, attention turns to Kingston’s emergency housing shelters.

With those living in camps near the ICH having to look elsewhere for somewhere to lay their heads at night, the City of Kingston says that there are around 140 emergency shelter beds, to go along with 50-plus drop-in and transitional home spaces.

“I’m wrestling with that right now,” says Rick Dohe, a resident of the encampment. “ just protecting what property I have left over.”

Dohe has been staying behind the hub for a year now. He says despite the recent eviction notices sent out by the city, he and his tent are allowed to stay, for now.

But what happens when it’s time to move on?

Kingston has six ‘low barrier’ emergency housing shelters, but what exactly does ‘low barrier’ mean?

“As many barriers as possible are eliminated for clients, while also keeping them safe,” says Ruth Noordegraf, director of Housing and Social Services at the city.

Noordegraaf says common barriers include someone who has a partner with them, a family, or even a pet, but substance use is one of the bigger ones.

“None of our shelters in Kingston has the ability to legally allow people to use substances, across the board,” she says.

This then points people to the Integrated Care Hub, where there is a safe consumption site, as well as a drop-in place to stay.

Certain shelters in the cities do cater to certain needs as well.

In From the Cold allows pets, the shelters on Concession and Cowdy streets have spaces specifically for couples or survival partners, and Lily’s Place on Kingscourt Avenue caters to families.

But with more people experiencing homelessness than there are shelter beds, they can fill up quickly.

“ is at capacity almost every night,” says Dohe.

“There are people that are out all night in front of the campfire.”

Noordegraaf says the city is playing catch-up with homelessness in Kingston, but adds that with the 50 new beds opening in January, it’s hoped that people can move on into more stable housing.

“Shelter should always be a temporary solution for somebody while they’re on their journey to housing,” says Noodegraf.

According to the city, there are only six people left in the encampment around the ICH, and the city says they will not be forcibly removing any campers from the area.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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