Hamilton councillor wants ‘human rights-centred solutions to end encampments’

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Published November 24, 2021 at 6:24 pm

Hamilton city councillor Nrinder Nann represents Ward 3, where police and protesters clashed on Wednesday after fire and explosions destroyed an encampment of unhoused people.

Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann says she will push for “human rights centred solutions to end encampments” in Hamilton at the first opportunity.

Nann’s ward includes JC Beemer Park, where police and protesters clashed on Wednesday after an early-morning fire destroyed the tents and possessions of several encampment dwellers. In a Twitter thread, ann said she will move a motion at the next emergency and community services committee (ECS) meeting on Dec. 9 that will call for a more long-term solution than periodic evictions of unhoused people who are sheltering on city property. Nann is the chair of the committee, with Ward 6 Coun. Tom Jackson serving as vice-chair.

“An overemphasis on encampment enforcement vs leading (with) a comprehensive housing (and) health strategy will result in clashes,” Nann wrote.

“Enforcement does not solve homelessness. Instead, it creates further division in our community and is an expenditure of public funds on the wrong thing.”

Nann added, “We must deliver a comprehensive action plan to house those neighbours in #HamOnt who have no other option but to live encamped.”

Along with Nann and Jackson, Couns. Brad Clark (Ward 8), Sam Merulla (4), Esther Pauls (7) and Terry Whitehead (14) are on also on the committee. Any motion that is passed by a committee faces ratification from the full council.

The removal of encampments in Hamilton resumed in earnest in late August, three weeks after after city council voted 10-2 to return to pre-pandemic enforcement of what is called a no-camping bylaw. Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson and Ward 8 Coun. John-Paul Danko both voted against the motion, and Nann later said that they would have.

In September, Wilson brought a motion to city council that referenced a number of recent city commitments. Those included the Housing and Homelessness Action Plan, which runs through 2023, and both the Urban Indigenous Strategy and opioid overdose emergency that were enacted in 2019.

The motion failed to gain support. And, in early November, an attempt by the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic to win an injuction against the evictions failed in Ontario Superior Court.

The blaze at Beemer came just hours before a scheduled rally to demonstrate against a dearth of consultation with the Indigenous community before the anti-encampments decision was made. It also came on the same day that the City of Hamilton announced that it had reached a record $2 billion in construction value in 2021.

That milestone represents projects in the residential, institutional, commercial, and industrial sectors. Many of the residential dwellings included in that figure will not be ready to live in for several years.

Also, data from Teranet suggests people who own more than one property comprise over 25 per cent of buyers in Ontario, which has contributed to the recent spike in housing prices.

Meantime, Hamilton Police Service stated that six individuals who were living in JC Beemer Park have been provided shelter, and the “majority of those affected” have relocated.

The Hamilton Encampment Support Network called the shelter “inadequate,” saying people were not offered “permanent housing solutions.” They also said people were “coerced” into moving.

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