The city will begin relocating homeless persons living in tent encampments tomorrow. So far they have found accommodation on a voluntary basis for 70 individuals.This follows a week where task force members continued their work with encampment residents to provide them with information about the options available to them. People sleeping rough in encampments were also made aware of the recent lifting of an injunction which had previously prevented the City from enforcing its bylaws.
The Task Force includes the City’s Housing Services, Municipal Licensing Enforcement, Waste Management, Mental Health, Street Outreach Services, a Social Navigator and assistance from the Hamilton Police Services.
Of the 70 people who voluntarily left encampments, 20 individuals were placed in hotels, 26 were placed in shelters and 15 individuals found more permanent housing. Moving forward, the City will add enforcement measures to its education efforts to encourage people staying at encampments to seek alternative housing that is available.
The City’s Encampment Task Force will continue to work with encampment residents to find more humane housing options. Moving forward, the City will begin enforcement at Ferguson Avenue’s encampment area, followed by the encampments near First Ontario Centre (FOC) and Whitehern Historic House to offer people staying there more humane housing options.
Given the size of the encampment on Ferguson Avenue, the City will be closing Ferguson between Barton and Canon starting midnight Wednesday until approximately noon Friday to allow Task Force members to conduct their work.
On Friday, the task force will be focusing its efforts on encampments near City Hall, Whitehern, and the First Ontario Centre, which still have a limited number of tents.
The lifting of the injunction and the resuming of bylaw enforcement follows an agreement with community advocates. The agreement addressed the enforcement protocol for City bylaws. It included a joint commitment to continue to engage with provincial health authorities to encourage further investments to help people with complex needs, including addictions and mental health, who need more support than municipally-funded shelters can offer.
With the emergence of COVID-19, the City of Hamilton has invested over $1 million for the operation of additional emergency shelter spaces in 2020. This is in addition to the $7.6 million budgeted in the 2020 municipal operating budget. The City has also committed to continue funding additional shelter spaces in 2021.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the City has seen an increase in the number of people sleeping rough in public spaces, including outside the First Ontario Centre, along Ferguson Avenue, and several City parks.
With the emergence of larger encampments during COVID-19, the City has incurred additional costs and staff time required for increased security, waste collection and outreach efforts. The City also recorded increased calls for service for paramedics and police.