Hamilton councillors vote to clear out encampments


Published August 10, 2021 at 1:38 am


The City of Hamilton will return to enforcing bylaws that prevent encampments of unhoused people in public spaces.

On Monday, after an emergency meeting, city council voted to repeal a bylaw enforcement protocol that permitted some individuals to camp in public spaces for up to 14 days, saying the protocol is ineffective. In three weeks, it will return to pre-COVID-19 enforcements levels against camping on city property and park areas, a release stated.

During those three weeks, the city says it will continue to offer supports and alternatives to those living in encampments, which have become a regular site in Hamilton over the past two years.

“Everyone deserves a roof over their head and a safe place to call home,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger stated. “The pandemic has underscored the increasing need for access to safe, humane, and affordable housing. We are committed to meeting the needs of unsheltered and unhoused residents through continuity of service while supporting long-term housing stability for vulnerable residents. Parks need to remain a safe place where all residents can enjoy and access outdoor spaces and amenities.”

The vote was 10-2, with four councillors absent.

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

Councillors John-Paul Danko and Maureen Wilson voted against it.

It is possible that advocacy groups could seek remedy through the courts, such as an injunction, before the next full council meeting on Friday.

That was what happened on July 30, 2020, when a court injunction restricted the enforcement of bylaws that prohibit camping on public property.

An understanding between community advocates and the city was reached on Oct. 7 of last year that led a formalized protocol for working with people who are sleeping rough.

Encampments have been removed in recent weeks. Last Tuesday (Aug. 3), Hamilton Police Service officers and city staff attempted to evict an encampment in Beasley Park. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful, according to the Hamilton Encampment Support Network.

The city’s release says that the housing services division has helped approximately 440 unhoused individuals and families find permanent housing solutions over an 18-month span from January 2020 to July 2021. In June, city council also approved one-time investment of $2 million for housing allowances for clients of city-funded intensive case management programs. It has also directed funding towards a new shelter and portable housing benefit focused on addressing the unique needs of women, Indigenous women, trans-feminine, trans-masculine, and non-binary people who are unhoused.

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