• Kyle Fillo

We Stand With The ICH/CTS in Defiance of Council Cruelty

As of April 1, 2022, just ten weeks from now, the Integrated Care Hub & Consumption Treatment Services centre will lose its funding from the City of Kingston. By the cruelty and ignorance of the City’s decision, the ICH/CTS will be forced to close down, leaving hundreds of members of the Kingston community without access to vital services. Due to the complex needs of many of these community members, these services, including shelter, food, healthcare, safe injection, and more, are frequently or entirely inaccessible anywhere else in the city.

Why is the ICH/CTS being left for dead? Certainly not due to a lack of effectiveness. Most people’s primary criticism of the ICH/CTS is aesthetic; they don’t like the way it looks. However, for anyone willing to engage with the numbers, it becomes clear that the achievements of the ICH/CTS are monumental compared to the options who will have to pick up the slack come April.

In terms of people served, here is how Kingston’s other shelters have fared over six months in 2021:

On average, these shelters serve just 16 unique people per month, yet operate at an average occupancy rate of about ~70%. That means their maximum occupancy is only ~23 per month. Meanwhile, the ICH/CTS sleeps 45 people per night, with over 100 utilizing drop-in, harm reduction, Consumption & Treatment Services, and the rest zone during the day. The above statistics come from a City Council Meeting Report, which means that they are aware of this looming disaster, and choosing to aim straight for it.

In terms of overall effectiveness, the capacity of Kingston’s shelter system will take an enormous hit because the City has no plan for after the ICH/CTS. This is without even discussing the literally live-saving overdose response work done at the Consumption & Services Treatment centre. Staff have responded to over 600 overdoses in 18 months since the ICH/CTS opened, an effort Mayor Bryan Paterson has acknowledged, in his Nov. 18 statement to City Council that “Kingston was the only city in Ontario where the overdose death rate decreased in 2020.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that closing the ICH/CTS will contribute directly to an increase in Kingston’s overdose death rate, or in other words, the inevitable deaths of Kingston community members. Again, this is the path that City Council is choosing to pursue.

Closing the ICH/CTS does not eliminate a problem; it eliminates a solution. The Katarokwi Union of Tenants members, and the people of Kingston, demand the clear explication of how every single service that the ICH/CTS provides will be accounted for, including as a(n):

  • Safe injection site

  • Warming centre

  • Kitchen and cafeteria

  • Overnight shelter

  • Rest area

  • Medical clinic

  • Community centre

  • And more

  • All of which operate with the low barrier to access necessary for Kingston’s most vulnerable residents

Without a concrete plan, which meets the above demands, this decision can be seen as yet another blow by Mayor Paterson and City Council in their class war against unhoused people, those living with drug addiction, and the poor and working class of Kingston. All of the exposure, injuries, overdoses, starvation, social isolation, and death that these community members are subjected to because they’re denied access to vital shelter, nutrition, and services must be placed directly in the hands of the people making this decision, and called what it is: social murder.

Social murder is a concept developed by Friedrich Engels in his 1845 book The Condition of the Working Class in England, which occurs when the people who hold social and political control (i.e. City councilors, rich property developers) place the poor and working class in such horrible circumstances that they inevitably meet an ‘early and unnatural death.’ It is different from murder or manslaughter, which are committed by individuals against each other, because it is committed by the collective actions of a society’s political and social elite, against the poorest and most vulnerable, who don’t have the means or ability to protect themselves.

Social murders are deaths of neglect, when those who run a society or city deprive people of food, shelter, medical care, community, choosing to police them instead of serve them, until they can no longer survive. Just because no bullet has been fired, or weapon wielded, does not mean that no violence is inflicted by those who run and rule the City of Kingston. In the face of an overdose epidemic, homelessness crisis, and viral pandemic, disregarding the needs of those in dire situations, when you have the power to save them, is akin to pulling the trigger.

The Katarokwi Union of Tenants stands with the ICH/CTS staff, and every community member who relies on their service for health, happiness, and dignity. We will not sit by silently and let City Council get away with abandoning their responsibility to Kingston’s most vulnerable. They are doing nothing to address the housing crisis, and this means the homelessness crisis will only worsen. If our elected officials refuse to represent their constituents, then we must show them that we can do their jobs better than them, by organizing and forming support networks that renders whatever charity they offer irrelevant, and showing them how powerful the people can be when we work in unison.

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