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Photo courtesy of Alex Bierk

Homelessness Crisis Town Hall Puts Solutions First, Brings Voice to Community Concern

Written by
David King
and
and
November 2, 2022
Homelessness Crisis Town Hall Puts Solutions First, Brings Voice to Community Concern
Photo courtesy of Alex Bierk

In light of the mayoral debate on homelessness, the homelessness crisis community meeting was an emotional night for all who attended on October 14, especially those who shared lived experiences with homelessness in Peterborough.

The meeting was organized by Town Ward candidate Alex Bierk and local activist Crystal Hebert and saw political candidates of all stripes in attendance, alongside grassroots organizers and volunteers for local organizations that provide resources and assistance to the unhoused. Total attendance was well over 100 people in total. 

There was no official representation from either Trent University or Fleming College that night, a fact which is especially disturbing considering the recent reports of students attempting to access the YES shelter.

At one point, a student spoke of their experience, having come to Peterborough to attend university, only to become homeless and drop out. They related their subsequent relapse into their addiction. They further cited the amount of disproportionate violence they had been facing as an unhoused LGBTQ+ person, and the harassment they have faced in the shelter system as a barrier to accessing services. 

Another recurring point of discussion was the malfunctioning of the shelter system, with many community members decrying its harmful policies around drug use and the expectation of maintained sobriety in order to access services. Many suggested more radical, rehabilitative solutions, such as additional treatment beds and using the Armoury on Murray St. as an emergency shelter. 

Political actors from all levels of government got a chance to speak, but not without consequence. A confusing point came from MP Michelle Ferreri, positing how the Armoury, which is owned by the federal government, could not be used for emergency housing during the winter, for “confidential reasons” and its current use to store weapons. One of the chairs for this discussion sought to clarify that the Federal government was “willing to house weapons, but not people.” MP Ferreri was preoccupied with her phone for the rest of the meeting following this straightforward question.

With a couple of disruptions aside, the rest of this forum ran rather smoothly, with both emotional testimony and political points being spoken to. This event allowed its participants to not only reflect on the privilege of being housed but allowed them to mull on what one can do to support our community’s most vulnerable. This meeting, and others like it, will not solve a systemic issue, yet it’s important to acknowledge how the situation will improve if solutions proposed by community members and organizers come to fruition.

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