A Clarifying Note on KUT’s Use of Critique
In recent months, the Katarokwi Union of Tenants (KUT) has kept a critical watch over City Council-funded initiatives aimed at sheltering those without homes during the winter. It is important to clarify, however, that our critiques have not aimed to call into question the necessity of intervention. Here, the use of critique has been to push those in positions of power to deliver funded projects in a timely manner.
Additionally, the use of critique has been deployed to encourage community members to think beyond the temporary, band-aid solutions to homelessness currently being promoted and funded. KUT does not believe that the goal should be to modestly increase the comfort of homelessness in winter months; rather, we believe that the goal should be the establishment of long-term projects that work towards the elimination of homelessness.
Our Livable Solutions and the Warming Centre
We are happy that those who have been selected to access the 10 sleeping sheds in Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, and those now able to access the Warming Centre, are safe and warm on cold winter nights.
The delivery of these initiatives, though, warranted the critiques KUT recently expressed.
In terms of the sleeping sheds project, the City Council provided Our Livable Solutions with $257,000 to deliver 10 sheds to be occupied from December 2021 to April 2022. Yet, the initial sleeping sheds were not occupied until January 17, and the final sleeping sheds were not occupied until January 25. This delay meant that those assigned to the sleeping sheds still had to navigate precarious sleeping arrangements for 1.5 months in dangerous (and potentially deadly) winter conditions.
The Warming Centre followed a similar trajectory. Despite City Council allocating $300,000 for the operation of a warming and counseling centre to operate from December 2021 to April 2022, the space located on 218 Concession Street remained closed on several cold nights well into January. Those tasked with the functioning of this centre justified the closures by highlighting staffing issues. However, funding had been allocated in November. This should have provided adequate time to sort out staffing issues, including contingency plans, well before January.
On-time delivery should not have been an issue given the small scale of what was promised. Those without homes in Kingston deserved better from those entrusted with project funding. Under these circumstances, KUT felt it necessary to try to hold those responsible to account for their (in)actions through the use of critique.
Daring to Imagine a Better Reality
For KUT, frustrations do not simply arise from inefficiencies in the delivery of funded projects, but further relate to the specific nature of the funded projects. The critiques voiced by KUT call into question the broader community’s enthusiastic embrace of modest projects that lack transformative potential.
City Council has only chosen to fund the two projects discussed above until the end of April 2022. There is no plan to ensure those without homes are able to transition into long-term housing after the funding period is over. Nearly $600,000 was spent on the sleeping sheds and the Warming Centre to ensure those without homes survive in the short-term, rather than to allow individuals to thrive in the long-term.
The embrace of such limited measures is the result of a close-minded understanding of what is possible and desirable. Thus, the use of critique by KUT is aimed at pushing community members to expand their expectations and raise their standards.
A City Council committed to ending homelessness by providing adequate levels of transitional and rent-geared-to-income housing alongside the provision of other necessary supports is possible to imagine when pushed to do so. And, once enough people can imagine it, there can be a strong enough movement committed to achieving it.
We hope that the critiques of KUT are helping others in the community see beyond the temporary fixes currently accepted as normal and just. We also hope that others who are able to imagine a better reality join us in fighting to make it happen.