Hamilton City Hall encampments raise concerns, mayor assures no forced evictions


Published May 11, 2023 at 12:16 pm

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InTheHammer file photo

Homeless residents continue to live in tents in the Hamilton City Hall parking lot even after bylaw officers have sent them notices to move out. However, the people in these encampments fear forcible eviction, saying there are no clear signs of help on the horizon.

The scene around the encampments remained calm on Monday (May 8), with paramedics attending to individuals following the weekend downpour. However, a barricade was put up at the entrance of the campsite, indicating resistance after the city issued notices last week requesting people vacate the area.

“There have been increasing safety and health concerns at the location, for individuals in the encampments, community members and City of Hamilton employees,” Monica Ciriello, Director of Licensing & By-law Services, told insauga.com

“Most complaints received being from the general public, the nature of complaints involve garbage, open substance use, fires, propane tanks, staff health and safety concerns and potential risk to the heritage asset.”

Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch, who brought up the issue in a council meeting on May 10, said that people in the encampments were receiving mixed messages about the notices being sent to them.

“I’m just saying the impact of the communication falls to the councillor’s office,” he said.

“Again, I’m not able to effectively represent people, answer residents’ questions, and I’m left there kind of sitting and waiting.”

On Wednesday (May 10), the city released an in-depth report on a new encampment protocol that talks about a “housing first approach.” Under this new protocol, city staff would learn about an individual’s housing situation, needs, and strengths to help build a plan to achieve stable housing.

“There isn’t a ‘neat and tidy’ time frame with the housing first approach. It’s a change from having bylaw go in and enforce,” said Janette Smith, Hamilton’s city manager, responding to Kroetsch’s concerns.

“They’re working with individuals with different needs, they look at how to best engage and sometimes the engagement takes a bit of time and help them look at available housing options,” she added.

However, the reality remains different on the ground.

According to a tweet by the Housing Encampments Support Network (HESN), no housing was provided to any of the residents. Instead, they were instructed to relocate to a different park, fully aware that they would probably face displacement once more.

Mayor Andrea Horwath also reiterated in the council meeting that shutting down the camp by force is not likely.

“That’s not, certainly not where we want to get. What we’re trying, what we’re trying to do is provide assistance for people to find another space.”

Encampments in Hamilton have grown during the pandemic, with over 100 such encampments popping up in city parks and other municipal properties. Council will discuss this situation in depth and vote on the new housing protocol next week (May 17).

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