Statement on the Criminalization of Outreach Support for Unhoused Neighbours

Out of the Box Counselling & Collaborations recognizes Roo’s Island as home to the residents who have lived there in tents due to the inadequate housing and social services in our community. On April 27th, 2023 residents of Kitchener and Waterloo Region gathered in support of residents of Roo’s Island. Upon gathering, people were met by a metal chain-link fence, a private security guard and two by-law officers. The two by-law officers denied access to supporters and service providers of residents of Roo’s Island. Concerned for the residents of Roo’s Island, community members used their voices and bodies to stand up for residents of Roo’s Island, demonstrating that access to services and support is a human right and necessity for every human being.

Between the dates of May 9-10 three different individuals were arrested after showing support for unhoused people in Waterloo Region. A Roo’s Island resident, Julien Ichim, was violently arrested resulting in physical injuries; Sarah Siembida, a Saqwamish Land Defender; and Wren Wombell, a grassroots organizer, were charged with forcible entry, assault of an Officer of the Peace, using a weapon, and mischief obstructing lawful use of property. Those arrested were then served with an undertaking that included conditions: non-association with each other, banning access to Willow River Park (Victoria Park) and mandating a court appearance in June.

Out of the Box Counselling & Collaborations believes these community members were raising concerns about human rights violations including: recognizing housing as a human right, fencing public spaces, prevention of access for social services, requesting disclosure of personal and confidential information without consent and the criminalization of homelessness. We support the actions of resistance that took place on April 27th and condemn the actions of the Waterloo Region Police Service recognizing that these charges will further marginalize Roo’s Island community members and are intended to stop community members from organizing and mobilizing together to raise concerns about human rights violations in our communities. We demand that the crown drop all charges immediately against all three housing advocates.

We call on the Region of Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge to follow through on the January 2023 Superior Court of decision that states that housing is a human right and subsequently take a Human Rights Approach to housing in our region. Viable, tailored, individual responses are needed to provide up-stream and wrap around services in a way that serves our whole community and not simply erasing the visible signs of homelessness out of our downtown core. People have a right to housing where they can see their families, be connected to their preferred social services and community. We believe all evictions should end and the Region should focus on creating adequate housing and social supports.

Krystal Hilchey Muise and Monica Van Schaik
Therapists, Out of the Box Counselling & Collaborations

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