City of Hamilton will resume clearing of homeless encampments after court injunction fails

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Published November 2, 2021 at 3:25 pm

Encampments and a lack of affordable, rent-geared-to-income housing have been a hot issue among Hamilton residents, members of city council, social activists, and unhoused people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Hamilton will continue to clear encampments from city property after a Superior Court ruling on Tuesday (Nov. 2). An attempt by the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic (HCLC) to get an interim court injunction preventing the city from tearing down the tents has failed.

While Justice Andrew Goodman acknowledged that homelessness is a tragedy that “no reasonable person in Canada would disagree with,” the judge ultimately ruled that the city has taken “reasonable steps in order to make available safe shelter space and accommodation.”

He added that his decision “is not a wide-sweeping review of the underlying issue of whether more should be done to help the homeless,” but rather, “the narrow issue” as to whether the courts can restrain the city’s by-law against camping on municipal property — including parks.

Encampments and a lack of affordable, rent-geared-to-income housing have been a hot issue among residents, members of city council, social activists, and unhoused people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city maintains that it will not ticket individuals who are unsheltered unless they ignore what the city deems as “appropriate alternative options.” Then a trespass notice will be issued — placing the enforcement responsibility on the shoulders of the Hamilton Police Services.

“The City’s enforcement approach will continue to take into consideration the safety and well-being of individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as the broader community needs, including access to green space for safe outdoor recreation,” issued the City of Hamilton in a media release.

“In enforcing the City’s Parks Bylaw, Municipal Law Enforcement officers are the first point of contact when responding to park by-law violations, which allows the Housing Outreach team to remain focused on their core role of engaging and connecting unsheltered individuals to housing and available services.”

City staff says it is planning to bring a report to the Dec. 7 Emergency & Community Services Committee that will provide more details about the planned transformation of the shelter system, capacity, and winter plans.

Hamilton’s housing system receives contributions from all levels of government and invests around $120 million annually into the housing and homelessness system, including a $64 million municipal contribution in 2021. $4 million will be invested specifically towards social housing repairs.

This year, the city committed an additional $950,000 in annual funding (year over year) towards a new shelter focused on addressing the unique needs of women, Indigenous women, trans-feminine, trans-masculine, and non-binary community members experiencing homelessness.

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