Hamilton councillor pushing back on anti-encampments bylaw

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Published September 13, 2021 at 8:27 pm

City councillor Maureen Wilson represents Ward 1 in downtown Hamilton.

Ward 1 city councillor Maureen Wilson seems to be suggesting her colleagues flouted City of Hamilton policies last month when they voted to revert to the pre-pandemic camping bylaw that allows for unhoused people’s encampmentsto be torn down.

Wilson, one of two councillors who voted against the motion at an emergency meeting on Aug. 9, has drafted a motion in regard to encampments and housing that will be presented at the next council meeting on Wednesday morning (Sept. 15). The motion references a string of commitments the city has made in recent years.

Those include:

  • the 10-year Housing and Homelessness Action Plan that runs through 2023
  • the Urban Indigenous Strategy that was adopted in mid-2019;
  • the opioid overdose emergency that the city declared in November 2019.

Several community and health groups objected to both the Aug. 9 motion and that fact that there was “no way for the public or houseless residents to weigh in.” Removal of encampments began on Aug. 30.

Wilson and Ward 8 Coun. John-Paul Danko were the only councillors to vote against the motion. Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann said she would have voted no if a medical appointment had not prevented her from attending the emergency meeting.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger and councillors Brad Clark, Chad Collins, Jason Farr, Brenda Johnson, Sam Merulla, Tom Jackson, Judi Partridge, Maria Pearson and Arlene VanderBeek, voted for the motion.

Following her “no” vote, Wilson’s home was egged.

Her new motion also states the city has acknowledged that Indigenity and gender affect the likelihood and the experience of being unhoused. It notes the city has “to account for systemic over-representation of Indigenous Persons experiencing homelessness,” and has recognized that “homelessness is a gendered experience, impacting single women, trans and non-binary individuals differently than single men or families.”

The motion calls for council to direct staff to “define encampment response strategy within the Housing and Homelessness Action Plan.” It will also be asked to define how that “will be informed by an individualized, person-centred and Gender Based Analysis approach.”

The third clause in the motion calls says the process must “respect, honour and promote the strength and resiliency of Indigenous Peoples experiencing homelessness.”

Upward of 5,000 households in Hamilton are on the wait list for affordable housing, and the minimum wait is about three years. The amount of social, or rent-geared-to-income housing built each year in Canada dropped precipitiously during the early-199os recession and has stayed flat for nearly 30 years.

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