Skip to content

BEHIND THE SCENES: Cambridge encampment not what it seems

CambridgeToday reporter Matt Betts takes us behind the scenes

Amanda Speed enters the parking lot at 150 Main St. in Galt, exchanging greetings with individuals moving around their tents. These residents were once her neighbors when she parked her 17-foot trailer adjacent to the vacant lot, which will soon host a new condo complex. More than neighbors, they are her friends.

Amidst ongoing discussions, the encampment has become a prominent issue in the city. A Facebook group called "Neighbourhood Watch Cambridge, Ontario" has documented homelessness-related concerns affecting not only those experiencing it but also the broader community, frustrated by security issues in the area. A long-term resident expressed feeling unsafe due to a home invasion since the encampment's establishment a year ago. Yet, Speed emphasizes that problems are not always as they appear in the encampment behind the social services building.

Misconceptions have arisen, compounded by negative labels, especially when seen through the lens of social media. Heightened safety measures, such as barricades and pylons, have been implemented to mitigate tensions. However, Speed suggests that these measures do not necessarily improve safety for residents. She believes the real issue stems from non-residents causing disturbances, leading to misunderstandings within the neighborhood.

Speed advocates for a better understanding of the situation and encourages the community to address the root causes rather than focusing solely on symptoms. She stresses the importance of providing more resources in the downtown core, emphasizing rehabilitation and housing initiatives. While a town hall meeting was held to address concerns, Speed remains skeptical of the impact such meetings will have, but she remains committed to advocating for the residents' well-being and accurate representation.

Video Summary:

Amanda Speed's interactions in a parking lot at 150 Main St. with former neighbors, now residing in tents on the lot, highlight the connection she maintains with these individuals who have become her friends. The lot is slated to transform into a new condo complex, but its current role as a makeshift encampment has sparked significant discussions within the city. The "Neighbourhood Watch Cambridge, Ontario" Facebook group has documented the homelessness-related challenges that extend beyond the camp's boundaries, causing frustrations due to security concerns among both residents and the broader community. The unsettling presence of the encampment prompted a long-term resident to express feeling unsafe in his own home, attributing it to an incident since the encampment's inception a year ago. However, Speed asserts that issues within the encampment are multifaceted and not always apparent to outsiders.

Misunderstandings and negative portrayals exacerbated by social media's influence have led to a distorted perception of the encampment's dynamics. Safety measures, such as barricades and pylons, were implemented to alleviate tensions, but Speed contends that these actions have not necessarily enhanced the residents' safety. Rather, she identifies the disruptive presence of non-residents as a primary concern, contributing to the challenges faced by those living in the encampment.

In light of these complexities, Speed advocates for a deeper comprehension of the underlying issues and a shift towards addressing the root causes rather than focusing solely on visible outcomes. She underscores the necessity of channeling resources into the downtown core, particularly directed at rehabilitation and housing initiatives. A community safety town hall was held to engage with concerns, yet Speed remains skeptical about the efficacy of such meetings. Nonetheless, her determination to ensure the well-being and accurate representation of the encampment's residents remains steadfast.