Tent city taken by storm

On Oct. 17, St. John’s homeless encampment across from Confederation building saw a heavy police presence which sparked confusion among the public.

A man in a black jacket collecting items from a huge pile of debris. Behind him are six police officers loading items in a police trailer.
A tent city resident collects personal items from the mountain of debris alongside Prince Philip Drive across from the Confederation Building. The pile included tents, blankets, food and clothes. Ariyana Gomes/Kicker

Ariyana Gomes

After weathering the intense rainstorm Monday night, residents of the so-called tent city across from the Confederation Building grappled with yet another string of challenges. 

Police officers are a common sight at the tent city, as they routinely meet the tent residents for wellness checks.

However, Tuesday afternoon, the encampment saw an unusual police presence that included multiple police cars, about 20 officers and a large trailer brought to collect debris.

This quickly escalated on social media as many people assumed that the officers were evicting tent residents from the area.

A post thread made by Royal Newfoundland Constabulary on X, formerly known as Twitter. This was a clarification to the tent city police presence.

Cst. James Cadigan, the media relations officer with Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, says the officers were only there to remove abandoned tents and discarded property.

Earlier Tuesday, police responded to a medical emergency at the encampment where a protestor was taken to hospital.

Later that day, says Cadigan, police learned about scattered debris beside the road made of damaged tents and personal belongings. 

“We want to make sure items aren’t blowing (onto road) in this weather,” said Cadigan.

“We need to keep everybody safe, including motorists who will be using the high-volume area.”

“You see, I don’t have a lot of options. I’m looked at differently.”

Joe Sinew

Monday’s storm saw winds of 60-80 kilometres an hour.

As tent city residents scrambled to save what’s left of their property, many were seen securing their tents with heavy objects like rocks and bricks in a bid to protect themselves from future weather events.

Among them was Joe Sinew, for whom getting out of homelessness is complicated by his recent release from jail.

“You see, I don’t have a lot of options. I’m looked at differently,” said Sinew.

Monday night’s storm had forced many tent occupants to abandon everything they had and move to someplace warmer. 

Sinew is one of 18 tent residents still at the encampment.

Since he’s been here, says Sinew, five couples have found homes through Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation and some are back in shelters.

“I won’t let my dog stay there.”

Leah Mallory

Leah Mallory, a local resident, has been a regular volunteer at the tent city protest for the last two weeks. 

From preparing hot meals to taking residents for an appointment or a shower, Mallory says the community support should never stop.

But she shared concerns about the temporary shelters that are offered to the homeless people citing issues such as violence, lack of privacy, drug abuse and hygiene.

“I won’t let my dog stay there,” said Mallory about some area shelters. 

“These people need a place that will keep them safe.”

Some confused, some animated and some cold – tent occupants exchanged heated moments from time to time while the police were still clearing up the debris.

Among many belongings lost on Tuesday, was the protestors’ multi-purpose food tent.

The makeshift storage was used to hold extra blankets, hot food and sometimes served as a kitchen where everyone gathered to eat.

“It’s like their last bit of freedom, last bit of dignity is slowly being taken away,” said Mallory.

Ariyana Gomes is a second-year student journalist at College of the North Atlantic. She writes print stories and produces video pieces for Kicker. She is a news-buff. When Ariyana is not chasing interviewees, she can be found consuming all things current affairs. Got a news tip? Contact her at ariyanagomes@gmail.com

About Ariyana Gomes 21 Articles
Ariyana Gomes is an assistant editor and multimedia reporter for Kicker. She enjoys hard news; covering stories that matter to local residents. Got a news tip? Email her- ariyanagomes@gmail.com

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