In the wake of a tent fire last week the NCC and Emergency services have made the decision to remove the tent city behind Bayview Station. Emergency and Protective Services (which oversees fire and paramedic services) and Ottawa Police consider that the site poses a threat both to residents there as well as to emergency responders. While we do not agree with the removal, it is no longer in our power to stop it. This is a tragedy on many levels. These are a group of residents who lost their homes due to a fire in April who, unable to find affordable housing in their community, chose to set up an encampment together. They are now losing this site because of another fire.
In the lead-up to the removal, we have ensured that all of the original residents of the encampment who were displaced by the rooming house fire have been offered housing or motel rooms until housing is available, and that the City will fund temporary overflow capacity at one of our shelters.
While residents of the tent city have asserted that the fire was set by a person not associated with the camp, and we believe them, emergency responders consider that the site is too dangerous for future response. We have explored whether an agreement could be struck to allow the site to remain without propane, but the NCC and City have made the decision to proceed.
We recognize that dozens of people not affected by the rooming house fire continue to sleep on the streets and in shelters each night. The residents of the tent city who have not secured housing will have no choice but to either move elsewhere on the streets or go into shelter. Their displacement creates new safety risks for the residents themselves and can only move the issue elsewhere.
While the City and NCC’s concerns for safety are the rationale used to move the site, it is unacceptable that the only option for those without housing is to sleep on the streets or shelter. We continue to call on all three levels of government to do better. We have all failed these residents and the hundreds who slept outside or in shelters last night and will continue to do so until this is treated as the emergency that it is.