Tiny shelters in Hamilton won’t become reality until well into 2023


Published December 1, 2022 at 8:01 pm

The type of tiny shelter HATS and SPRC want to offer in Hamilton. (HATS)

Some of the most vulnerable citizens of Hamilton will be out in the cold longer yet, since a tiny homes proposal intended to help the unhomed is now unhomed itself.

Councillors on the City of Hamilton emergency and community services committee (ECSC) spent a few hours on Thursday (Dec. 1) hearing delegations in regard to the Hamilton Alliance for Tiny Shelters (HATS) proposal to build tiny homes on a site at 647 Barton St. E., near Earl St.

Ultimately, after hearing feedback from nearby residents, councillors voted 5-1 in favour of a deferral motion introduced by Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann. It directs staff to prepare a HATS Tiny Home location report that will try to pinpoint alternative sites, meaning it will not be near Barton St. and Earl St.

The earliest that could come back to the committee is in seven weeks, on Jan. 19.

The proposal asked for $100,000 annual funding over each of the next years. Tiny homes proponents say they are a tide-over solution for housing-deprived people, many of whom have intersecting health challenges. The proposal has also come forth while the pandemic has intensified an affordable housing crisis.

Residents of Ward 3 said there was a lack of community consultation before the Barton site was announced as the HATS location in mid-November. Some delegates were empathetic about about the needs of the unhoused, while some worried about a cost to businesses and property values.

“It has kind of blindsided us,” said Brenda Duke, who was delegating on behalf of the Gibson and Landsdale Area (GALA) community planning team.

In the deferral motion, staff are instructed to “report in short order” on a potential site for 10 tiny homes. That could include municipal lands. For instance, Ward 2 Coun. Cameron Kroetsch suggested putting the HATS tiny homes in a park.

Nann, Kroetch and Couns. Tammy Hwang (Ward 4), Alex Wilson (13) and Maureen Wilson (1) voted in favour of the deferral motion. Ward 9 Coun. Brad Clark voted against it.

The ECSC voted 6-0 to provide $125,000 in funding for community providers to offer overnight warming shelters when there is a cold-weather alert. The province’s special COVID-19 funding to cover extra shelter sspace during extreme cold runs out on Dec. 31.

“Funding is ending at the end of December, but we are already in winter,” Hwang said while moving that motion.

The city had 12 delegates who spoke in regard to the HATS proposal. That included presentations from HATS representatives Julia Koller and Daniel A. Bednis.

Several Hamilton non-profits and social service organizations are committed to teaming up with HATS. For instance, Wesley Urban Ministries executive director Don Reynolds said the non-profit will be providing food daily. Medical treatment and washroom facilities would also be on the site.

The HATS non-profit funds itself through donations and grants. It has yet to receive funding from any level of government.

“They were ready last winter if they had a place,” Reynolds told councillors.

One pro-HATS delegator, Amber Ross, held the attention of the entire council chamber when she described her experience without a home after leaving an abusive relationship. She explained that while she now has housing, she is unable to give her daughter a stable home and the child now lives with Ross’s mother.

“Homeless people, we are not any less as people,” she said.

A GoFundMe campaign that Kollek organized to pay for building tiny shelters has raised $29,937 toward a $50,000 goal. More information about the fundraiser is available at gofundme.com. The Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton is HATS’ charitable partner, so the donations can be claimed on your income taxes.

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