People living in Gatineau homeless encampment face uncertain future

People living at a homeless encampment in Gatineau are facing an uncertain future as a developer that has provided heated tents and other services on the property for the past five months prepares to discontinue those services and eventually clear the site.

The camp, located in a parking lot adjacent to the Robert Guertin Centre – an arena that has been closed since 2021 and is slated for demolition – was spearheaded by property developer Devcore, which set it up in December following two deaths at a makeshift encampment nearby. The site in Gatineau, a city of about 300,000 across the river from Ottawa, consists of 48 heated tents inside a fenced perimeter, as well as washroom facilities, security personnel and other intervention services. There are currently 58 people staying there.

But the camp was meant to be temporary and now Devcore is preparing to shut down those services on Wednesday, citing concerns about summer heat on those camped out in an asphalt parking lot. The people living there will be allowed to keep their tents and stay there until the arena demolition begins this summer. Devcore says it plans to eventually set up low-rent housing made from shipping containers, though it is awaiting city approval.

The upcoming deadline was part of an agreement between the City of Gatineau and Devcore when the camp was first set up. In a statement, the city said that people experiencing homelessness will be able to remain on the site given that the tendering process for the demolition of the Robert Guertin Centre is under way and work will begin this summer. The city added that the people in the area will have a reasonable warning before they are required to relocate, and that the city will continue to show flexibility around the use of the site.

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