Unhoused in Hamilton can stay encampments till Oct. 15 as advocates seek 2nd injunction

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Published October 8, 2021 at 9:02 pm

Unhoused people living in tents became commonplace in Hamilton during 2020. City council voted Aug. 9 of this year to return its pre-pandemic enforcement of a camping bylaw. (InTheHammer file photo)

Advocates for the unhoused in Hamilton shared news of a legal win that they say, at minimum, will keep the city from removing unhoused people’s encampments for a week.

The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic (HCLC) said Friday that they have sought a new court injunction against the City of Hamilton that seeks to proect homeless encampments. The HCLC said their motion was adjourned to Oct. 15, with the court directing the city to “stop evicting encampment residents from encampments” that comply with a set of requirements.

Those include:

  • Are in an area considered to be a park for the purposes of the city’s parks bylaw;
  • Being at least 50 metres away from a school, playground or childcare centre;
  • A maximum of six tents in one grouping;
  • Additional groupings of up to six tents must be at least 200 metres away from other groupings of tents.

The HCLC said it will be back in court on Oct. 15 to press for a permanent injunction, which would be similar to the one it helped win the summer of 2020.

Encampments and a lack of affordable, rent-geared-to-income housing have been a flashpoint among residents, members of city council, social activists and unhoused people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Timeline

  • On Aug. 9, city council held an emergency meeting where it voted 10-2 to revert to a pre-pandemic bylaw that bars camping on public spaces.Mayor Fred Eisenberger, as well as 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. Ward 3 City Councillor Nrinder Nann said she would have voted against it. Nann stated that the evening meeting was called with such short notice that she could not cancel an appointment she had that night.

  • The enforcement became effective as of Aug. 30.
  • During the week of Sept. 13, Wilson introduced a motion to a city committee to push back on the anti-camping bylaw. It did not succeed.
  • The following week, the CBC Hamilton news hub reported that city data shows only 15 per cent of some 477 unhoused people that city outreach workers contacted have found permanent housing. That group was over a period between between January 2020 and July 2021, the CBC said.
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