As follow up to my last letter sent to Bartholomew Sanders, Karen Redman, Mayor Vrbanovic, sent March 23, 2020, from which I have gotten no response, I am again asking,
"Is there a plan to repurpose hotels or university residents for voluntary self-isolation for any unsheltered people not showing symptoms who call the Region of Waterloo home? Have you considered unrented properties for these purposes?"
While all shelters are 24/7 except YMCA overflow I understand there are approximately 400 known or identified homeless individuals in the whole system. This does not account for new arrivals to the area, or those unsheltered people who are scared of or don't trust what is in place regularly or now. With the decision to transform the Bus Station to only an access point for washrooms and no other options for self-isolation for these folks who do not conform to the options you are currently offering, but still run the risk of contracting the virus or spreading it, what do you intend to do?
These members of our community, and my neighbours, need access to water, food, and protection as well as bathrooms. They need to know what their options are and that does not happen when waiting for them to ask the right question if this is your only local public education plan. This should not be a complaint driven system. The City of Kitchener estimates that there could be 200 - 250 people who are couch surfing, tenters or sleeping rough. Therefore, it seems to make sense to find alternative ways to support self-isolation humanely for approximately 300 people whether they materialize or not.
There are individual privileged and generous community members who have extra and want to share. We are willing to donate tents and camping supplies to these folks to help them. But I want to know if I donate these things when these folks try to set up camp they will not be kicked off or arrested but can be supported to tent in a safe place that is protected and supported by mobile health and front line supports
Where are the designated areas for the homeless to tent? Especially, if they are afraid to go to shelters or they do not qualify for the Radisson. Or what if they live with any conditions that will not allow them to tolerate confined spaces or crowded and concentrated containment. What are your multi-pronged approaches to leave no one behind? Since we are all in this together.
Viruses don't discriminate, people do.
I would like to see tenting in a designated downtown and protected area. Where homeless peoples can be visited by mobile health services during this pandemic. I am deeply concerned that as the city, or region, or whoever handles bylaw creation and enforcement will create a catch 22 for those who remain on the streets. Are you setting aside land that is accessible or serviced by washrooms as more and more services close?
What seems obvious to many of us who live down town is that you could allow for an actual tent city in the park land adjacent to the clock tower as well as re-purposing the Manulife Parking lot as another protected area where homeless could pitch tents or at least put a bed role that would be relatively easy to secure. And then provide porta-potties that are serviced regularly along with the bus station and friendly and trained security. We run the risk of criminalizing homelessness in a pandemic. This has got to be more expensive in the long run, placing far too much pressure on the prison and jail system, and even the justice department, if you plan to fine people who have no money to begin with. In light of prisons trying to release people into the streets it seems to make sense to do the right thing.
Understanding that fear levels of most people with adequate shelter are likely heightened, it is possible that these anxieties may be even more intense in people with no access to virtually anything, Self and voluntary isolation is all the more important understanding that the Region of Waterloo will be approaching it's apex of cases over the next few weeks into May. With the hospitalization of Boris Johnson in the UK it is obvious that viruses don't discriminate, people do. And if there is competition for care in ICU's and for ventilators, let's face it, those who are unsheltered, who look scruffy, who have lots of health problems, will likely lose in the competition for those resources, if health professionals have to make tough choices. But we can protect everyone now with humane and serviced tent cities.
I require a response immediately as a property owner and tax payer living in the Kitchener downtown.
Signed Heather Majaury
Posted with authors permission
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Petition: Care & Precautions for Unsheltered NOW
Regan Sunshine Brussé
I am often wrong and always learning.