Homelessness and encampments crises require Hamilton to tackle root causes, mayor says

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Published June 21, 2023 at 1:33 pm

encampments canada
InTheHammer file photo

When it comes to challenges involving homelessness and encampments, Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath says the City is taking a “multi-faceted approach,” including tackling some of the root causes. 

The mayor said her big hope is that the encampment residents who live in tents around the city will find supportive and transitional housing. “The big concern that I have is how do we make sure that we can provide the supportive housing, the transitional housing that’s necessary to give people the potential, the hope of being able to exit the homeless encampments,” she said in a recent interview with inthehammer.com publisher Khaled Iwamura.

The mayor recently talked to inthehammer.com’s publisher about what the City is doing to address homelessness and encampments.

Horwath pointed out that Good Shepherd’s affordable housing project at 35 Arkledun Avenue is one example of possible solutions for homelessness. The charity partnered with the City of Hamilton and Ottawa to convert a former commercial school at 35 Arkledun Avenue in Hamilton into units. The building opened its doors in May for those who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness.

For encampments, she pointed to the City now consulting with the public on its encampment strategy, including holding meetings to discuss the issue and hear from residents.  

“We also know that the affordability crisis is real,” she told inthehammer.com. “Hamilton has a real serious problem when it comes to rental housing. For example, the rental market is out of whack. People cannot afford even a one bedroom, which is at $1,800. … When you’re earning a minimum wage, you can’t come anywhere near affording even a one-bedroom apartment (and it’s) not like there’s a lot of them out there.”

The City is concerned about the lack of affordable housing, Horwath added.

With a 21-year low vacancy rate in Hamilton, average rents in the city jumped 16.1 per cent in May to $2,110 for condo rentals and apartments. The average rent for a one-bedroom was $1,877, up 15.7 per cent year over year. 

“Then we also have the mental health piece and what we’re trying to do is … make sure that as people are experiencing houselessness that we are providing  safe spaces. And so that’s another piece. So we’re looking at what other municipalities are doing and trying to put together a plan that touches all of the pieces.”

As for concerns regarding municipal bylaw officers issuing 27 trespass notices in May to encampment residents, Horwath said it was done “from a housing perspective.”

Horwath had said in a council meeting in early May that the City didn’t intend to shut down the camp by force and hoped to “provide assistance” for them.

“So we had social workers and housing support workers and other folks there to help people get a sense of what other options might be, how they can engage with other social services to start addressing some of their needs,” she told inthehammer.com recently. “And so we have seen some people move to different spaces. We’ve seen some people engage with social service agencies there.”

Safety issues including a stabbing and assault in the area led to the issuing of the orders, she noted.

Ultimately, she said the City needs to tackle “the root causes of this crisis … and make sure that we’re providing the kind of services that people need, and the opportunities that people deserve to find a stable roof over their heads.”

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