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Hamilton clarifies steps taken in homeless encampment clearance

Hamilton clarifies steps taken in homeless encampment clearance

With the City of Hamilton’s recent moves to clear homeless tent encampments following the lifting of a court injunction, there have been a number of statements made in social media, particularly about the process followed in clearing the encampments. The Bay Observer sent a list of questions to the city manager’s office and received the following responses:

Is there a written policy outlining the steps that are taken when people are removed from encampments?

The city provided an infographic outlining a five-step process taken by the city consisting of:

  • Initial complaint is made
  • Bylaw officers visit the site, seeks voluntary compliance and alerts an outreach team.
  • Housing Street Outreach visits site to: coordinate housing and service options and to provide personalized housing plans
  • Bylaw officers revisit the site, issue trespass orders and notify Hamilton Police Services
  • Site is cleared

A spokesperson for the city elaborated on the pre-eviction process.

On an ongoing basis, the City of Hamilton’s Housing Focused Street Outreach Team attend sites and engage with individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness, regardless of their circumstances, seven days per week to provide and make referrals to available supports in the community.

Municipal Law Enforcement Officers attend encampment sites to provide verbal notice, advising all occupants that they are not permitted to be there as this is a violation of the Parks by-law. Municipal Law Enforcement Officers notify street outreach to attend/engage with individuals and provide assistance. In many situations, Housing Street Outreach is already involved with the encampment occupants offering support.

If necessary, after all efforts to gain voluntary compliance have been exhausted, a trespass notice is issued. Once a trespass notice is issued continued occupation is a provincial offense enforced by Hamilton Police Services.

These steps can occur over a day, several days or a longer period of time.

Do people living in encampments still receive Ontario Works and or ODSP benefits?

Yes, individuals living in encampments are eligible to receive income supports such as Ontario Works and ODSP.

Housing Focused Street Outreach staff remain engaged with these individuals regardless of their location and continue their outreach activities and offers of support with shelter, referral to community supports, and developing housing plans. To date during the pandemic, the City has been able to house more than 485 homeless households representing over 1000 unique individuals.

When people are moved from encampments to temporary shelter how long can they stay there, and if there is a time limit, are they put back on the street?

There is no maximum length of stay in shelters/hotels and staff will continue to work closely with the individuals to secure permanent housing options.

Yesterday the city released plans to spend approximately $3 Million to increase the number of shelter spaces, particularly for females. Funds will also be made available to support churches and service clubs who want to create shelter space.

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