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Ottawa's homeless population in 'deep distress' due to convoy protest

'There are people living here, so they are pushing it a little bit with the noise at night,' says homeless man who stresses he is 'for the protest'
Freedom Convoy 2-12-22
Homeless people in Ottawa have been given money, warm clothing, and warm meals from protesters, claims a homeless man who spoke to OrilliaMatters Saturday.

OrilliaMatters reporter Tyler Evans has made the journey to Ottawa to report on the protest blockade, inspired by the 'Freedom Convoy,' which is in its third weekend. He will be reporting from the nation's capital throughout the weekend.

No matter what side you're on when it comes to the weeks-long protest in Ottawa, there's no question the presence of thousands of people jamming the downtown core in the nation's capital has been disruptive to people who call Ottawa home.

It's also had a huge impact on those experiencing homelessness.

The Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa issued a statement saying the city is "under siege" and called for a "peaceful end to the occupation."

"Our unhoused neighbours are in deep distress from the occupation in our streets," reads the statement, citing a lack of public space due to the protest.

"Oftentimes, people sleeping on the streets or staying at shelters spend their days walking, from service to service, trying to access basic needs," the statement notes. "Having to deal with the occupation as they try to go about their lives has been exhausting, and has made daily life even more challenging."

The statement notes that the city declared a housing and homelessness emergency in January 2020.

"Even under typical circumstances, people experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of violence, simply due to not having the protection of a home," it says. "Right now that danger is one of the highest it has ever been in Ottawa."

However, one homeless man who spoke to OrilliaMatters said he supports the protest.

Jamie Sauve, an Ottawa native who was hit by a car and developed a disease in his foot from the injury, says he is unable to be vaccinated because of the disease.

Before the pandemic, Sauve was a professional residential/commercial painter with more than 20 years of experience. Because Sauve is unable to be vaccinated, he says he lost his biggest contract and many others. 

“I fought with the government to get unemployment insurance, but they want nothing to do with it until I get vaccinated,” he said. “My doctor tells me I can’t get vaccinated, so I’ve lost my condo...I’ve lost everything to tell you the truth.”

As a homeless person, Sauve says the protest isn’t bothering him, but it has made it difficult for someone trying to sleep in the downtown core.

“There are people living here, so they are pushing it a little bit with the noise at night,” he said. “Other than that, everyone has been peaceful. There is no fighting or anything like that; everyone is being respectful.”

Early on in the protest that didn't seem to be the case, as some protesters allegedly harassed staff and volunteers at the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter and demanded food from their downtown Ottawa soup kitchen.

The incident sparked outrage and led to an outpouring of support for the facility that serves 1,000 meals a day through its soup kitchen and supportive housing units. In less than two weeks, $750,000 was raised to support the shelter. 

Sauve says his experience has been different, noting many protesters have gone out of their way to be kind to homeless people.

“I honestly don’t like asking anybody for anything, I’ve only asked once,” he said. “But people seem to be really generous around here.”

Sauve says he’s been given toques, socks, nice warm meals, and warm beverages. “To be honest with you, I’m for the protest,” he said.

But it's not all positive. Sauve says he had his last $40, his identification documents and change of clothes stolen while he was sleeping.

“I feel asleep the other night and when I woke up one of my bags was gone,” he said. “I can’t blame protesters for that, it’s my own fault.”

Sauve encourages protesters to keep their efforts going for “as long as it takes" to force the government to eliminate COVID-related mandates such as vaccine passports and mandatory masks.

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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