The ICH/CTS must be supported not demonized

Originally posted Nov. 4, 2021

Contrary to what has been stated elsewhere, the COVID-19 outbreak at Kingston’s Integrated Care Hub and Consumption & Treatment Services (ICH/CTS), and the circumstances subsequent to the outbreak, are not at all the fault of the staff at the ICH/CTS. Anyone looking to lay blame in this way must do so in flagrant ignorance of both the ICH/CTS’s stated responsibilities, and the root systemic causes of the suffering taking place there.

First, the ICH/CTS is already shouldering nearly the entirety of the fallout from government inaction, at all levels, towards the ongoing Housing and Opioid crises, which have left thousands on the street, and thousands dead from a poisoned drug supply. It remains one of Kingston’s few meagre backstops against further suffering for those experiencing homelessness, and against the deadly reality of opioid overdose that faces those experiencing drug addiction everyday. Now, nearly two years into a global pandemic, the strain of which has only been compounded by the two aforementioned crises, they’re being asked to function as a hospital.

The ICH/CTS cannot succeed as a COVID clinic, because it was never intended to function as one. The fact that this is the proposed solution is the real problem. Why aren’t local, provincial, and federal governments being made to answer for the fact that they’ve had 20 months to plan for this inevitability, and their solution is to herd COVID patients into containers? In the most optimistic light, our elected leadership’s collective surprise that people would get sick during a global pandemic is at least an indictment of their common sense.

Furthermore, the ICH/CTS is not a shelter or a soup kitchen. It is the inadequate response of those pushing law and order solutions to poverty, homelessness, and drug addiction in Kingston. The fact that they are housing, feeding, and clothing anyone is above and beyond their responsibilities. Despite this, everyone that works there is doing so, and the people who benefit from their services love them for it, and understand the shared burdens faced by every single person serving or being served there.

The ICH/CTS is already under immense strain, thanks to the refusal of every other level of government to adequately deal with the opioid and housing crises. Why are the only people daily braving the nightmares created by a total lack of government response, those who provide dignity, safety, and humanity, however modest, to those made most vulnerable by the state’s policies, now under fire? That anyone should be criticized for struggling to become a pandemic field hospital under these circumstancessays far more about the critics than the criticized.

So then why criticize? If nothing else, it’s a way to shift blame for these spiraling crises from those perpetuating them, to those victimized by them. Nothing about the circumstances at the ICH/CTS seem like the government backing them is committed to success, or even damage mitigation. This article deploys a cynical visibility on a community (those who use the ICH/CTS’s services) that are treated as invisible at every level of consequence. This is accompanied by unprovoked attacks at the ICH/CTS staff, who have committed their lives to patching the holes torn in our society by capitalism and its faithful servants, and caring for the people who have been allowed to slip through these holes.

“So-called ‘housing and homelessness advocates’ should be offering nothing but support to ICH/CTS staff during this crisis,” said Ivan Stoiljkovic, General Secretary of the Katarokwi Union of Tenants. “As an organization driven only by tenant power, we serve, advocate for, and work with both the ICH/CTS staff, and the community members who depend on their presence, services, and compassion.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, the housing crisis, and the opioid crisis, are not issues of individual choices made by those at the bottom. It’s about the state wielding its cruel power through a refusal to implement solutions that save lives, or adequately, let alone actually, maintain the systems in place to do so. The COVID situation at the ICH/CTS is a microcosm of the situation in our country. Government stasis on life or death issues is indistinguishable from a total rotting of our institutions, and those taking the blame are the only ones trying to stem the rot.

For those looking to support ICH/CTS staff and community members isolating with COVID, the Katarokwi Union of Tenants is asking for the following donations:

  • Warm clothing
  • Entertainment (books, magazines, DVDs, puzzles, games, etc.)
  • Volunteer support (PPE and Narcan training provided)

You can also financially donate to our GoFundMe. All donations go towards purchasing goods that will be physically taken to unhoused encampments around Kingston, not limited to the ICH/CTS. These goods include food, winter clothing, sanitary products, and other items specifically requested by our unhoused friends.

We are always looking for new volunteers as well. If you’re interested, please fill out the KUT Volunteer Survey.

“Lives are at stake. We need all the help we can get to fill the public health and housing void that the City has created in this community.Criticism, pontification, and attacks on the only people who are actually saving peoples lives right now, are a waste of everyone’s time and energy,” said Stoiljkovic.

Article by Kyle Fillo, on behalf of the membership of the Katarokwi Union of Tenants.