‘Cruel and unjust,’ residents express concerns as Hamilton council approves registry for homeless individuals


Published May 25, 2023 at 1:23 pm

Hamilton City Councillors made a significant decision on Wednesday (May 24) as they voted to establish a voluntary registry for residents, advocates and councillors willing to host homeless individuals.

The motion, put forth by Councillor Matt Francis and seconded by Coun. Tammy Hwang, received a 9-6 majority. The directive calls for staff to assess the feasibility, financial implications, and liability associated with creating a registry to facilitate housing homeless individuals by residents, council members, and advocates.

While the motion gained support from a majority of councillors, there were concerns raised about the potential challenges this registry could introduce to an already complex situation.

Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark, who opposed the motion, expressed caution about placing residents in situations they may not be equipped to handle.

“We may be putting residents in a situation that they’re incapable of handling, because they don’t have the professional expertise to know how to de-escalate a situation. To deal with someone who has a serious mental illness or addiction,” Clark said at the meeting.

“If something goes wrong, the liability will be very high in this manner and those lawsuits will also impact the residents who are volunteering,” Clark added.

“The challenge is that we will have to rely on residents to house a tent in their backyard. It really does put their family and other families at risk.”

In contrast, Mayor Andrea Horwath, who voted in favour of the motion, expressed her support while acknowledging the need for cautious consideration.

“I am taking a leap of faith by supporting this motion,” she said.

“Let’s look at the situation and explore the opportunities. I think exploration is important, just to gather information and gauge whether such a model is viable or if we can find another option.”

Rising tension amid community advocates

As the news of the approved voluntary registry for hosting homeless individuals spread, tensions began to rise on the ground level. Numerous advocates took to social media platforms to voice their opposition, claiming that the registry is “cruel and unjust.”

The Hamilton Encampment Support Network (HamOntESN) issued an urgent call to action on social media, asking community members and various organizations from across Hamilton to gather at City Hall on May 26 and demand immediate action.

Laura Badcock, an active participant in the political sphere, has also started an online petition to gain support from those who oppose the motion. This petition aims to provide a space for individuals to express their dissent to the registry.

“Only in Hamilton does council make cynical, lazy, and harmful decisions,” Babcock wrote in a tweet.

With the approval of the motion, city staff will now undertake a thorough evaluation to determine the practicality and potential consequences of implementing a voluntary registry. They will also consider alternate approaches that may address the issue of housing homeless individuals in Hamilton.

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