Authorities clear out homeless tent encampment at Colonial Building

Police and workers in white suits and balaclavas began clearing out the tent encampment outside Colonial Building in St. John’s on Friday morning. The move comes two days after the provincial government posted signs around the encampment saying tents and unauthorized structures would be removed. The signs included the phone number for the emergency shelter line for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation (NLHC).

Reporters at the scene saw workers taking tents apart and putting personal belongings in plastic bags. Infrastructure Minister John Abbott said a number of tents were abandoned, so the government asked a contractor to remove them but to also make sure any personal belongings were held separately. Workers collected items from around the site in garbage bags, loading them into a large truck.

Temporary orange plastic fencing was placed around the encampment early Friday. Abbott said this was done to secure the site. “We do have authority to make sure that there is no unauthorized use of any of our public facilities,” he said. “Having it secured allows our officials to work with the individuals concerned without any interference.”

Volunteers attempted to salvage items. Requests were made on social media by protest organizer Tent City for Change for people to help collect the camp residents’ gear and personal items, and police allowed trucks in for people to gather the items and assisted volunteers in loading trucks.

Housing advocate Mark Wilson said NLHC workers and staff with the provincial Department of Transportation and infrastructure were also on scene. He described the police as providing an “intermediate role” and providing safety.
Housing advocate Mark Wilson says the situation is the biggest failure from government he has ever seen for homeless people. Now residents are trying to figure out where they will go.

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