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An Open Letter to Kingston City Council re: ICH/CTS

To Kingston City Council,


We will not allow the Integrated Care Hub to close. As organizations in the community you govern, we are proud of the work done by the ICH/CTS staff, which has made Kingston a provincial leader on drug and public health policy, especially impressive considering our size. From saving over 600 lives through overdose reversal, to feeding and sheltering over 400 people since opening, to the dignity and community it offers to those denied it elsewhere, the ICH/CTS is a shining example of everything a community can achieve in the face of harsh social conditions.


The people of Kingston are facing housing, homelessness, and overdose crises along with the ongoing pandemic. Now is the time to find financial flexibility, not make budgets the barrier to life-saving services. As members of Council have stated publicly, austerity does not work. We live in a community, not a balance sheet. You are elected by the people of your neighbourhoods, not the line items in your budgets. For this reason, we demand that you raise property taxes on Kingston’s richest in order to finance and expand the ICH/CTS’s services for Kingston’s most vulnerable.


At no point in City Council discussions has the topic of the cost efficiencies of the ICH/CTS been raised. As one example, the ICH/CTS saved Kingston’s hospitals $236,208 in 2021 by diverting 777 potential patients from the hospital system. Crying poverty without context like this is to forgo both your civic and financial due diligence to the people of Kingston. It does not take much investigation into connections like this to find that the City actually can’t afford to let the ICH/CTS close, rather than vice versa.


Our community is not negatively defined by the visibility of those struggling to survive; rather it is positively defined by the compassion and power we wield in alleviating those struggles. In this spirit, the people will pick up whatever responsibilities the City Council members attempt to rid themselves of. By choosing the more expensive, more dangerous, more cruel option of closing the ICH/CTS with no replacement services, you are causing more problems, not alleviating them. We will only become more vocal, more organized, and more visible, hand-in-hand with the very people facing the lethal consequences of your decisions.


We’ve watched the council meetings, and know that you all understand the inevitability of overdose deaths if the ICH/CTS closes. We will ensure that any death that occurs because of inaction on homelessness, drug addiction, and the overdose crisis is an election issue, to prove that you cannot wash your hands of your most vulnerable community members.


We need you to become ethical leaders by taking risks, and making decisions that save lives, to sustain Kingston as a leader on drug policy, unhoused care, and fighting the overdose crisis. The condition of our community is your legacy, and this decision is a vital point to prevent death, further homelessness, and intense suffering. Now is the time for bravery, using your power to protect those who need it, rather than bowing to an extremely loud but extremely small minority, weaponizing their hatred of these community members.


We demand:

  • That City Council raises property taxes on Kingston’s richest, defunds the police, and stops giving public money, land, and tax forgiveness to large corporate developers, in order to finance and expand the ICH/CTS’s services for Kingston’s most vulnerable.

  • The establishment of a permanent and accessible ICH/CTS location that doesn’t suffer from the pollution and toxicity problems of the current site

  • An expansion of the ICH/CTS’s services to include social housing and further complex care for clients, while retaining its current agencies and managers

  • An investigation into the anoxic brain injury epidemic caused by the ongoing overdose crisis

  • The decriminalization of drugs in Kingston, and a plan for establishing safe supply


Sincerely,


Katarokwi Union of Tenants


Tim Buck Club of Eastern Ontario


Kingston Peace Council


Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston


Moms Stop the Harm


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