Advocates for Hamilton’s unhoused ‘floored’ by city council vote for encampment evictions

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Published August 10, 2021 at 10:30 pm

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Two medical groups that have helped protect people living in encampments in Hamilton say they are discussing their “next steps” after Hamilton city council’s vote to return to pre-pandemic enforcement of camping bylaws.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the Hamilton Social Media Response Team (HAMSMaRT) and Keeping Six Hamilton said they were “floored” that city council would “abandon their legally negotiated obligations under the encampment protocol.” 

Both groups were part of the coalition that won an injunction on July 30, 2020 that prevented city staff and police from removing encampments. A settlement was negotiated and finalized in October after the injunction expired.

“We are currently in discussions with our legal representatives, community partners and encampment residents about our next steps,” the statement reads in part. “We would like to reiterate again that our approach is based on the premise that housing is a human right. Repealing the protocol once again shows us that some city councillors care more about protecting property than they do about protecting human life and dignity.”

They added that the current protocol is imperfect, but it allowed “an avenue through which officials can choose to do the right thing.

“The protocol has bought encampment residents precious time, allowing them to connect to services and to find some measure of stability. In some instances it has permitted people to stay in one spot for extended periods of time. It hasmade explicit what should be an obvious fact: moving people when there is no viable option for housing serves no benefit and causes significant harm. We have heard from our colleagues on the front lines about how the protocol has helped them to do their jobs and to stay connected to the people that they serve, and we have heard from encampment residents of the benefits of being able to remain in one location, with some of the threat of constant eviction being removed.”

Their response followed an open letter from the Hamilton Encampment Support Network, a volunteer-run group that helps houseless and unhoused Hamiltonians.

Council voted 10-2 in favour of the motion. Ward 3 City Councillor Nrinder Nann she was unable to attend due to a medical appointment, but would have joined her wards 1 and 8 counterparts, Maureen Wilson and John-Paul Danko, in voting against it.

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