Encampment teardown in Hamilton called off, housing advocates say

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Published March 15, 2022 at 6:31 pm

Hamilton-area housing advocates say that a planned teardown that included unhoused, mobility-challenged man’s encampment in the city did not happen on Tuesday, following a call to come to the site.

The Hamilton Encampment Support Network (HESN) put out a call to action late Monday night, asking for residents to support in delaying or stopping an eviction at an encampment on Linden Street. The push included a call to write to city managers, Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann and the Hamilton Police Service. It also included a video where Dan Graham, an unhoused man who has had a prosthetic leg and what he calls “severe mobility issues,” explained that he is more comfortable living in an encampment than he is at a shelter while he tries to find permanent housing.

“The teardown that was scheduled today was called off!” HESN wrote on Twitter early on Tuesday afternoon. “Please continue calling, and emailing the city demanding that they stop teardowns.

“No more encampment ban, no more teardowns, free housing for all and we won’t stop fighting until we see this through.”

That news came hours after charges were dropped against the six Hamilton-area housing advocates who protested a teardown at J.C. Beemer Park in late November.

During the two-year-long COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Hamilton has assisted over 600 individuals and families who were unhoused with finding a more permanent solution. A lack of affordable housing, which was a factor that predated the pandemic, has led to people living rough in tents and tarps.

A court injunction, and other advocancy work, kept the city from evicting encampment residents throughout most of 2020 and ’21. City council voted during an emergency meeting last Aug. 9 to resume encampment evictions at that end of that month. An attempt to obtain a new court injunction failed, which led to encampments being removed last fall and also to the arrests related to the Beemer teardowns.

Two months ago, though, city council moved forward on crafting a “Hamilton solution” to the housing shortage.

‘No different from a lot of people’

In HESN’s video that was posted Monday, Graham said he has been living in an encampment since last July, which works out to a total of about eight months. He had a leg amputation after he was struck by a bus when he was very young, and has severe health challenges with his other leg. But he told HESN he likes being where he is since he is able to cycle there and park his bicycle.

“I am no different from a lot of people — I am just looking for a place where I can mind my own business,” Graham said in HESN’s video. “I’ve just been trying to stay away from any kind of trouble, you know? And that’s one of the reasons I try and avoid the shelters … I’d rather be here. I come here and relax. I can’t relax at the shelters at all. I’m always on — I’m always tense.”

Graham also offered a reminder that encampment teardowns have involved throwing out an unhoused person’s possessions.

“It’s like people think that if you are homeless, you shouldn’t have things,” he said. “But I need things to survive.”

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