Hamilton police deny bulldozer threats and bullying claims at homeless encampment


Published June 9, 2023 at 12:15 pm

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InTheHammer file photo

Hamilton police deny claims that officers are bullying and threatening encampment residents downtown by telling them that the City will send a bulldozer if they don’t leave the site, calling the accusations by a homeless advocacy group “erroneous and not true.”

Jackie Penman, a spokesperson for Hamilton police, said “there’s no way” police are telling residents at the encampment near the Whitehern Historic House and Gardens that municipal law enforcement will come with a “bulldozer” and enforce trespass notices.

“This is ridiculous,” Penman said in a phone interview with inthehammer.com. “That is just so factually inaccurate…no one is coming in with a bulldozer. We continue to work collaboratively with residents of the encampment…to ensure they move to another safe location (and) find supports.”

Yesterday (June 8) an advocate for the homeless accused the police of threatening residents with the use of a bulldozer to break up the encampment and haul away personal belongings in garbage trucks.

James Lambert, a volunteer with the Hamilton Encampment Support Network, said homeless people at the downtown encampment feel threatened by police who are helping to enforce trespass notices at the scene. He said residents told fellow advocates about the threat to use bulldozers.

Hamilton police say these accusations about the bulldozer and bullying are not true.

Penman went on to say that both the City and police outreach teams are working with encampment residents to connect them with available support systems and to encourage compliance with the City’s trespass order.

A police social navigator team also has officers working with paramedics to help those who need a place to live, have health issues or are considered vulnerable. “This is a coordinated response between the City and police,” Penman explained.

City says encampment residents are voluntarily leaving

City officials earlier this week said some residents who had received the trespass notices, issued May 25, began to “voluntarily leave” and that they are  “trying to gain compliance” from the people at the encampment rather than enforcing trespass orders.

On Tuesday, a Hamilton official said “multiple issues” on the site, especially an assault and stabbing on May 26, led to the issuing of trespass orders and the police presence.

“The actions being taken at the Whitehern encampment are a direct result of continued safety concerns in the encampment, which have included an assault of a member of the general public, a stabbing and reports of flammable materials,” said Monica Ciriello, the City’s director of bylaw and licensing services.

Ciriello said the City’s “housing-focused” street outreach team has visited the site an average of four to five times a week since March 1, including visits after the trespass notices were issued.

The City and police brought a garbage disposal truck to the encampment on Tuesday because police had notified City staff that “some residents had begun to pack up and that there were items that could be disposed of,” she added.

Ciriello said residents “had voluntarily agreed to leave” and gave permission for their items to be thrown away that day.

But Lambert of the Hamilton Encampment Support Network said residents are feeling pressured to leave.

“I think it’s just outrageous that Hamilton police service and municipal law enforcement call this voluntary,” Lambert said. “I think residents would say there’s nothing voluntary about it. They feel like they’re being given an impossible choice…so from the perspective of residents, they’re being evicted under the threat of trespass notices being enforced.”





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