Council makes a decision on designated encampment report

THUNDER BAY — After a three-hour debate on the designated homeless encampments report, city council removed reference to a vacant city lot proposed for a possible pallet village and added wording regarding the distancing guidelines.

There were two deputations by residents, with one of them being a former city councillor.

During the first deputation, Andre Gagne spoke out vehemently about designated encampments.

Councillors asked if he had suggestions on what could be done instead.

Gagne suggested that unhoused individuals be connected to mentors “to give them some kind of hope, some kind of something.”

The second deputant was former councillor Aldo Ruberto, acting chair for the Fort William BIA.

He noted that the FWBIA wasn’t consulted about the potential use of the Viscount parking lot, which is being proposed as a possible site for a pallet village.

Instead, the FWBIA found out about the parking lot through the news, noting that “the reaction was quite chaotic.”

Ruberto also believes that, over the long term, this “will destroy the city” and wants the city to support service providers instead.

Coun. Trevor Giertuga suggested further consultation with the public and asked to have a report back in a month with results.

Director of strategy and engagement, Cynthia Olsen, noted that kind of report wouldn’t be possible and would take time.

She indicated that extensive public consultation was held months earlier and not specific to any location.

The survey results showed that respondents preferred vacant lots as the most desirable.

Olsen added that the BIA was welcome to participate since it was an online survey. She reminded council that Monday’s meeting was to “hold” the lot for the time being.

She added that if administration were to be directed to another robust consultation, a report would not be available until the end of August or even into September.

Incoming city manager John Collin suggested that any feedback received would echo what council witnessed during Monday’s meeting.

“It will likely result in feedback that they are still non-supportive of the Viscount lot if administration was afforded the time to do an exhaustive consultation and get more information.”

After the deputations, a brief recess for clarification and back-and-forth discussion on the topic, the question was called in council chambers and carried with the changes of removing the references to the Viscount parking lot and adding the wording of “ongoing review to distance guidelines.”

The ratification vote is scheduled for July 15.

Katie Nicholls, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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