The ideological divide on Hamilton Council, was on display Wednesday as a passionate discussion unfolded on the homeless encampment issue. It started with a comment at last week’s GIC meeting when Ward Five Councillor Matt Francis said that council should explore the possibility of individual residents being invited to provide their own home or property for one or more homeless individuals. That idea was formalized into a motion to have staff report back on the legal and liability ramifications of setting up a volunteer registry where residents who were willing could offer up space to encampment dwellers. When the matter came to City Council for ratification, a couple of supporters at GIC backed out.
The unspoken undercurrent was whether Francis’ motion was serious or whether it was intended to embarrass encampment supporters on council to test how deep was their support. Francis’ motion was directed at the entire community, but when he first spoke on the issue at GIC he appeared to be directing his suggestion to fellow councillors.
Several councillors talked about the root causes of the homeless encampment issue, including the need for senior governments to provide supports that once existed that now have disappeared. Until the senior governments step in, there is no alternative but to support the continuation of encampments, they argued. One of the concerns expressed about the Francis motion was the fact that many encampment residents have addiction and mental health issues which could lead to dangerous behaviors on the property of people with no training in that area. Mayor Horwath said not all homeless people fall into that dangerous category, citing her encounter with a woman who was homeless simply because she had lost her job.
At council Francis said his motion might have the effect of stimulating some immediate action at the local level.
In the end, the Mayor’s view prevailed and the motion passed 9-6. Staff will now report back to council on the legal liability and operational ramifications of individual residents offering to house encampment dwellers.
Leave a comment