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Cabin Community for Homeless in Hamilton Gathers Steam

Cabin Community for Homeless in Hamilton Gathers Steam

A temporary village of tiny homes for the homeless could be established on the grounds of Sir John A. Macdonald school before spring, or possibly sooner.

 A community led plan to build the small cabins is based on a successful Waterloo initiative called A Better Tent City.

  In a series of presentations to the city’s  Emergency & Community Services Committee (ECS) today, it was clear a broad base of community groups are energized and determined to make this urgent housing intervention work and work quickly.

 Ignition for the innovative plan came when the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board offered a location on the vacant SJAM school grounds for the temporary tiny home community.

  More than once the phrase “We will build it and they will come,” was uttered during the four hour meeting.

tiny cabin for homeless
Photo from HATS presentation

  The group behind HATS, Hamilton Alliance for Tiny Shelters is seeking both financial help from the city and tweaks in zoning and a pause in bylaw enforcement that would allow the the cabins to be built and occupied. Julia Kolleck of HATS said up to 20 cabins could be built on site.

Cabins will be temporary

  It was made clear the cabin community on the SJAM land would be temporary. The school board has already said the vacant school is destined to be torn down within year-and-a-half. But the urgent need to get people out of tents and into housing was underscored, particularly as the city issued a cold weather alert during the afternoon meeting.

  A delicate subplot during the meeting was the fact that there are councillors who think the donated site is the wrong site. It is located at a very busy and visible entrance to the city. Councillor Jason Farr was particularly concerned after fielding many resident complaints about garbage, violence and drug activity at encampments in Ward 2.

   Concerns about the visibility of the homeless community was eased in a compelling presentation by Jeff Willmer a leader of A Better Tent City in Waterloo, and the former CAO of Kitchener.

  While stating that the Waterloo location is at a business park, and not that close to the downtown, he turned the concern around. “What’s wrong with being known as a city that cares for the vulnerable,” he said.

On duty supervisor needed at cabin community

  A pillar of the tiny home community in Waterloo he said is the requirement that someone be “on duty” 24-7 to handle issues and emergencies that emerge in the community.

  That essential element was underscored by  Jennifer Bonner, director of The Hub, an all volunteer centre that truly provides the necessities of life to the homeless, impoverished and vulnerable populations of Hamilton.

  While fully supporting the HATS plan she had blunt advice for the ESC committee, Bonner said the cabin community initiative will fail if wrap around support isn’t provided.

  “It’s just not sustainable if all the stuff doesn’t go with it,” Bonner said. That “stuff” includes medical help, mental help, police help, lived experience help.

  “Who looks after harm reduction, where will clothing and food come from, will people be taught how to cook, who will deal with stolen bikes and garbage?” Bonner said.

  The Hub located on Vine Street near York Boulevard opens its doors to the homeless and needy, offering food, washrooms, clothes, and help navigating social needs. It’s also a designated warming centre.

  “We provide community, and that’s what’s needed,” she said.

   As councillors and staff dealt with potential zoning and bylaw issues, and some wanted time to search for other locations for the tiny shelter community, the push for action may have flagged a bit. 

 But HATS leader Tom Cooper emphasized the temporary cabin community is needed now.

  “Some think the site isn’t appropriate but it’s a gateway to show a caring community.”

City staff will review HATS request and report back February 17.

For more information on HATS

The Tiny Cabins

For info on The Hub

thehamiltonhub

https://www.thehamiltonhub.org/

More on housing issues in Ward 2-

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