Hello Ward 8 Neighbours,
There have always been, and will continue to be, people who have resorted to living in a tent here in Ward 8 and across Hamilton.
Continue reading below for more information on homeless tent encampments in Ward 8…
COVID19 & Homeless Tent Encampments
Until recently, homeless tents have been mainly out of sight and out of mind in Ward 8 – usually short term and hidden in forgotten corners of City parks or tucked away somewhere under a bridge or on the escarpment.
Reasons for residents sleeping rough vary – from socioeconomic factors, to mental health and addiction issues to personal safety concerns during a global pandemic – in the past several months, Hamilton and municipalities across Canada have seen an increase in people choosing to live in tents, pitched on public property.
(This Hamilton Spectator from August 22nd, 2020 goes into more detail on Hamilton’s growing homeless encampment population.)
Hamilton’s shelter system does have space available (although shelter accommodation is much more restricted for women, couples and families), but shelter accommodation is short term and access to stable, affordable housing is becoming increasingly out of reach for many in our City – compounded by the economic and social realities of COVID19.
Court Injunction Restricts City’s Ability to Remove Tents
On July 30th, 2020 the Superior Court of Justice granted an injunction that restrains the City of Hamilton from taking any steps to evict or involuntarily remove individuals from encampments in the City.
While this injunction is in place, it applies to all City owned public property, including parks and other greenspace (such as along the Niagara Escarpment).
Hamilton City Council has directed staff to challenge the current injunction in court.
In the mean time, City staff will continue working together with homeless-serving agency partners, in compliance with the court injunction, to connect individuals sleeping rough with available community resources and supports as required.
In an effort to maximize the choices available, the City and service/shelter providers are committed to further explore all opportunities within housing, shelters and hotel accommodations to provide greater access to individuals currently in encampments.
What if You See Someone Living in a Tent in your Neighbourhood?
Encampments can be a major challenge for neighbourhood residents with concerns over erratic or aggressive behaviour by individuals suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, discarded needles, petty property crime and general sanitation.
There is also concern that once an encampment becomes established, it may lead to a permanent and expanding “tent city” (as is the current concern downtown with growing encampments on Ferguson Avenue North and across from First Ontario Centre).
Please remember that while the injunction is in place, the City of Hamilton can not remove a tent from City of Hamilton public property – but we can still offer help.
If you come across someone living in a tent in your neighbourhood, you can advise Hamilton Public Health directly (email@example.com or 905-546-2489) that there is someone sleeping rough and in need of assistance.
You can also contact the Ward 8 office (click here) and we will let our public outreach team know about the encampment.
Once notified about an encampment, City of Hamilton outreach workers will attend the site as soon as possible and will engage with the individual(s) experiencing homelessness in our community so they are aware of what their options are to find shelter and/or legal housing alternatives on a voluntary basis, depending on their individual circumstances and the available options.
Statement from Ward 8 Councillor John-Paul Danko
I have not, and will not, support unregulated encampments in Ward 8 or anywhere else in our City – as is currently the case as long as the injunction is in place.
I continue to support our City of Hamilton outreach staff and partner agencies as we struggle with the realities of homelessness in our City.
Across Canada, many municipalities are responding to the new realities of the COVID pandemic with a new approach to better manage and regulate the growing issue of encampments.
I am interested in exploring the best practices from other municipalities, such as the possibility of allowing overnight tents on sanctioned City properties during the spring summer and fall (provided they are rolled up and packed away every day) and strict rules on behaviour and cleanliness for those choosing to stay in tents, as temporary measures during COVID.
This system has been adopted in other municipalities for municipal properties that are isolated from residential homes and where adequate supports such as public washrooms, social services and transit are within walking distance.
For example, here is a link to the City of Victoria’s response to people sleeping in tents during the pandemic: https://pub-victoria.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=58150
I am also working towards policy changes that will lead to a greater availability of affordable housing in Ward 8 and throughout the City.
In Ward 8, I was recently successful in bringing forward a secondary suites by-law that will allow residents to legally add small rental units to their homes. It is anticipated that this will increase low cost rental supply over time.
In the coming months I am also anticipating a major announcement of a new family oriented (mostly three-bedroom units) affordable housing development in Ward 8 that will drastically increase the availability of lower cost family housing options on the mountain.
Finally, I am also committed to working towards planning policies that ensure lower cost housing, rental units and environmentally responsible low carbon building standards are formally incorporated into our municipal approvals processes.Ward 8 Councillor John-Paul Danko
City of Hamilton Press Release
For further reading, the City of Hamilton has issued the following press release on the issue of homeless encampments:
City Statement on Residents Living in Encampments
HAMILTON, ON – The City remains committed to the health and safety needs of all residents as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. This includes addressing the impact this has had on our most vulnerable residents by taking a proactive, organized approach to connecting those who sleep rough, to safer and more humane housing options.
Encampments or ‘tent cities’ are not an issue unique to Hamilton. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen an increase in encampment activity. As a municipality, it is our responsibility to ensure we strike the right balance to support the health and safety requirements of our most vulnerable along with those of our entire community.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, in collaboration with our community partners, the City’s Encampment Taskforce has engaged with 162 individuals sleeping rough to:
- educate them about their options to find legal housing/shelter/hotel accommodations,
- ensure they understand health and safety expectations including rules applicable to preserving safety within shelters.
To date, these efforts connected over 100 individuals to safer and more humane living conditions. Hamilton City Council continues to support the successful work of the City’s Encampment Taskforce.
Currently, and throughout the pandemic, there are spaces available within the shelter system for each sector: men, women, families and youth. Since April 1 no person has been refused a shelter or hotel due to capacity issues. In addition, we continue to provide hotel spaces as well for males, females, couples and families with children. We are also continuing to explore where that capacity needs to be expanded or improved.
The City’s legal team is working on gathering further evidence to challenge the current injunction prohibiting the City from involuntarily removing residents of encampments.
Questions or Concerns?
If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact our office here.