An agreement between community advocates and the City of Hamilton to end litigation over encampments has been reached on September 30, 2020. Both parties have agreed to appear together before the Superior Court to confirm the lifting of the July 30 injunction and withdrawal of the application which challenged City by-laws. As part of the agreement, the parties have put in place a protocol for the application of bylaws related to encampments.
Both parties agree that encampments are a symptom of a housing crisis that is national in scope and that tents are not a solution to the housing challenges many experience.
The agreement calls for the advocates and the City to continue engaging with provincial health authorities to help people who need more support than municipal shelter and outreach efforts can offer. Current City of Hamilton data suggests that those with higher, complex needs make up between 25 and 30 per cent of the Hamilton’s homeless population.
Successful transition to housing for many individuals experiencing homelessness with complex needs, including severe mental health and addictions, requires health and wellness interventions which are the jurisdiction of the provincial health care system. Both parties agree that supporting these individuals into long-term shelter solutions is a process that requires patience, persistence and person-centered engagement. The City has thus committed to a personalized approach to enforcement of the bylaws as it relates to people with complex needs. Under the deal encampment residents who are being evicted are given 14 days warning. During that period they will be offer a variety of social and medical supports.
“The City remains committed to helping people experiencing homelessness find safer and more humane housing options and to ensure our public spaces remain safe and accessible to all residents of Hamilton who collectively own them. While this agreement paves the way for the removal of encampments, it does not diminish the lasting experiences for citizens living near them and we thank them for their patience. We are pleased that we can return to enforcing our bylaw while at the same time working with community groups to advocate for increased provincial health care supports for those that need them.” – Mayor Fred Eisenberger
Under the new rules all individuals experiencing homelessness in encampments – even when deemed high acuity or engaged with outreach in the 14-day grace period outlined above – are subject to the following restrictions and may be removed or moved if not in compliance with them:
o No more than 5 in an encampment;
o No encampments on sidewalks, roadways or boulevards;
o Encampments must not encumber an entrance or exit or deemed fire route;
o Encampments must be 50 meters from a playground, school or childcare centre;
o No encampments within any property with an environmental or heritage designation; and
o Situations where health and safety concerns exist for those living within or adjacent to an encampment will be addressed in a reasonable fashion, in good faith, on a case by case basis by the City in its sole discretion that balances the needs of both the person experiencing homelessness/encamped individuals and community members. In these situations, the City will consult with the Encampment Task Force and the City’s Mental Health and Street Outreach team to determine how to best balance the needs of persons experiencing homelessness/encamped individuals and other community members.
“Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT are pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the City to come to an agreement that recognizes the challenges that the people we love and care for face in accessing shelter and housing. We look forward to putting this legal battle behind us and moving forward in supporting people who use drugs and those experiencing homelessness.” – Dr. Jill Wiwcharuk and Lisa Nussey
Full details of the new protocol can be found here.