Officials do not force anyone to leave tent city: Housing Minister

Housing Minister Fred Hutton says officials are on site at the tented encampment outside the Colonial Building, seeking housing solutions for the few people left there.

Hutton says living conditions at the site have become a serious safety issue for people staying there.

Hutton says fortunately no one was hurt, but last week’s fire involving a propane tank used for heating “highlighted how dangerous this really is.” He says it is not a safe environment for people living on the site, combined with the possibility of protesters trying to escalate the protest at the site.

Hutton says nine people accepted placement offers in various areas of the city yesterday, and three people left there this morning.

He says a government team is on site again today, along with representatives from End Homegiving St. John’s, NL Housing and Income Support. “The longer this goes on, the more likely it is that something bad will happen because of the unsafe conditions that exist there.”

The former Airport Comfort Inn is now phasing in operations and a small number of people are already taking advantage of the accommodation and services offered there.

Hutton understands that people living on the site may be nervous about leaving, but says they are offering people options that are safer than the current living conditions in the tent city.

“They are not going to evict them, there is no one who will go down there and forcibly remove people from that place. What we are doing is continuing to offer options.”

Hutton says any personal belongings removed from the site are stored securely for recovery at RNC headquarters.