The local government in the town of Guelph, Ontario is running a campaign against a group of young people living off the grid.
A dozen or so who have squatted a piece of disused city parkland may soon be homeless.
The group, in their late teens and 20s, had set up gardens, a composting toilet and even a bike repair site, but signs posted by the city say they may be evicted this week.
“In all the talk of going green we’ve probably got the most sustainable home in all of Guelph,” group member and longtime Guelph resident Matt Soltys said.
Some of the squatters have been there for more than a year, he said.
The residents have worked with and welcomed everyone who’s come through and they deserve better, Soltys said.
The group has found a safe source of water from a spring and collects food partly from the surrounding woods and their large vegetable gardens, he said.
Bike parts, mattresses, rain barrels and tarped structures are spread out haphazardly around an abandoned quarry site.
Hidden in the bush, a bike has been set up to run a blender for making smoothies.
But a city-posted eviction notice states the squatters must leave before Aug. 25.
Jim Stokes, the city’s manager of realty services, has been out to the site several times and said people can’t camp overnight on city land.
“The city bought the property for the purpose of parkland,” he said. “It’s not meant for residential purposes.”
“We don’t want people living and accumulating things on the land,” he said.
Dan Boucher has been living at the squat for months.
He was working yesterday to clean up paper debris and organize bikes and glass bottles.
He said by living on the land people who would otherwise be homeless have independence and a sense of community.
“I don’t have anywhere else to go and it’s going to get cold,” Boucher said. “I’ll be pissed off if it’s all taken down,”
A lot of work has gone into building the site, he said.
Recently the residents have started construction of a five-metre-by-seven-metre straw-bale and concrete home for the winter.
One of the reasons for the eviction is the beginning of the building, Stokes said.
“Pouring foundations is way beyond what we will allow,” he said.
Guelph Police spokesperson Sergeant Doug Pflug said removing squatters can be a long, drawn-out process.
Police will first go in and simply ask people to leave and then forcibly remove them if they don’t leave, he said.
“The best case scenario is people collect their things and leave,” Pflug said. “We’ll do our best to resolve the situation with the least police involvement.”
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