For the most up-to-date information on our response to this rapidly evolving situation, please monitor this page or our Twitter account.

//K6 COVID-19 Info Centre

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 25

September 17, 2020
Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

 

Hello! We hope all of you are having a good week. A brief update this week! Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

The September volunteer sign up schedule is live! October volunteer sign up comes out next week. Sign up to go on outreach, bake, or decorate paper lunch bags. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have already received the sign up link – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org if you haven’t received it. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for September, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer. We are thrilled that our outreach coordinator, Marcie, is staying on until the end of December to continue running outreach. Huge thanks to Vince for his contributions the last few months.

 

Congratulations to the winners of the Keeping Six art & writing contest! For the art contest, 1st prize goes to Rachel Craig, 2nd prize to James Mast, 3rd prize to Alexis Davis, and honourable mention to Noel Lalicon. In the writing contest, 1st prize goes to Penny O’Radical for her submission Dead Friends Chapter 1, 2nd prize to Jeff Kil for Empty Vessel, 3rd prize to Benjamn Schutt for Ant Watching: A Short Horror Story, and honourable mention to Q Lawrence for the moon only shines for the dying and sickly. You can view their winning submissions in the forthcoming September zine issue, which will be posted here.

 

On the encampments front, our legal team met with encampment residents on Tuesday to hear more about their concerns. And again, there was lots of discussion about the issue in council. You can view the General Issues Council meeting recording here. We were glad to see Councillor Clark bring up the possibility of mediation. Lisa Nussey from Keeping Six also responded to the discussion on the Bill Kelly show, which you can listen to here. The most important point – Do we take issue with the visibility of the problem? Or do we take issue with the problem itself? I.e. do we focus on the appearance of encampments, or do we actually try to address homelessness and its root causes? And we will keep repeating this – we do not think people should be forced to stay in tents. We simply think that we should be working tirelessly to house people in housing that meets their needs, and in the meantime we should not be moving encampments and displacing people.

 

As the weather gets colder we are struggling to keep up with requests for make shift shelter from those who have nowhere else to go. We are renewing our efforts to gather donations of tents, tarps, sleeping blankets for people sleeping rough. To donate please reach out to us at tents@keepingsix.org.  We know that many of you have already donated, so we encourage you to share the campaign with 5 friends, family members or colleagues who don’t follow our work.

 

HAMSMaRT is pleased to sign on to the Migrant Rights Network Status For All campaign. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected immigrants; for example a recent study found that immigrants, refugees, and other newcomers account for 44% of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario. Earlier in the pandemic, we were exploring how we could support COVID-19 testing for migrant workers on farms. This never got off the ground, in part because the legal status of migrant workers made it impossible to ensure those testing positive would not experience substantial harm in the form of lost wages, deportation, and substandard housing for isolation. From the Status For All campaign: “Migrant workers on farms, in greenhouses and meat and food processing plants have been hit with massive COVID-19 outbreaks. Three migrant farm workers have already died: Juan López Chaparro, Bonifacio Eugenio Romero and Rogelio Muñoz Santos…Lack of permanent resident status makes it difficult, and often impossible, for migrants to speak up for their rights or access services, including those they may be eligible for, because of a well-founded fear of reprisals, termination, eviction and deportation…We are all essential. We all deserve full immigration status. Recovery from COVID-19 calls for a rethinking of the ways in which our communities and our economy is organized…Full Immigration Status for All is just, fair, necessary and urgent. The time is now.” To get involved, you can:
  • Sign the letter yourself!
  • Post on social media using #StatusforAll, tagging PM Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh encouraging individuals and groups to sign on to the letter and campaign
  • Email your organizational list-servs encouraging your members to sign the letter and explaining why you did.
  • Reach out to federal politicians telling them why you support Status for All.
  • Write statements and op-eds explaining your support and insisting that a fair society is one with equal rights and that requires status for all.
  • Participate in the day of action on Sunday, September 20th. There is a Status for All Walk in Hamilton being organized by Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network and Migrant Workers Alliance for Change this Sunday at 2 pm! Find out about actions across Canada here: https://migrantrights.ca/sep20/

 

We continue to amplify and support the work of the Six Nations land defenders, who have been subject to increased arrests this week at 1492 Landback Lane. Many of us belong to institutions which have adopted the practice of land acknowledgements.  This article in the Conversation asks what can a land acknowledgement really mean while theft of Indigenous land continues?  There has been an uptick in OPP arrests of land defenders, their supporters, and, particularly concerning, of journalists in recent weeks.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

PARTICIPATE IN THE #STATUSFORALL CAMPAIGN from the Migrant Rights Network – details above!

DONATE TO FUND REPAIRS TO KANYENKEHAKA KANONHSES via GoFundMe – they are $6090 away from their goal
DONATE TO THE SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS via e-transfer to landback6nations@gmail.com
ASK THE INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS you are affiliated with what they are doing to move beyond land acknowledgements and support the Six Nations land defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane
VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, or go on outreach, by signing up here.
DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) here.
DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org.
September 1: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 24


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 24

September 8, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters:

Happy Labour Day! This time of year always feels like a fresh start, even though most of us have been out of school for many years. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

 

The September volunteer sign up schedule is live! Sign up to go on outreach, bake, or decorate paper lunch bags. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have already received the sign up link – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org if you haven’t received it.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for September, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

 

Our work with the encampments is ongoing. Dr Jill Wiwcharuk and Lisa Nussey wrote an op ed published in The Spec further articulating our position. You can also read our letter to council here and the letter written by our lawyer here, which we have decided to release to the public as well.  We remain committed to dialogue on this issue and are eager to work with the City to come to some resolution. Once we have any updates about the injunction, we will share them with you!

 

Dani Delottinville and Lisa Nussey from Keeping Six spoke at the Community Teach In on defunding the police September 3rd. Dani shared with attendees that “for us the global pandemic has only intensified and crystallized the need for alternatives to policing. First, because most of all the services and spaces that people rely on were closed during the pandemic. But, not the police. Libraries, drop-in spaces … bathrooms, all closed. Policing carried on … all the funding, resources and energy that goes into arresting, charging, detaining on poverty and drug related charges could be so much better used, on almost anything… Let us be clear: the opioid epidemic and the rampant loss of life and potential is not a law and order issue, it is a public health crisis.  Anytime we are mobilizing law and order resources to deal with a public health crisis, we are only exacerbating the problem.”

 

Defunding the police is directly tied to reconciliation. Police violently enforce colonial laws that remove Indigenous people from their land, in order for private businesses to make money. We are deeply concerned that the OPP has arrested people who have attended the 1492 Land Back Lane encampment, including Indigenous journalists and researchers. For anyone reading this, please take action – this is an excellent time to ask the institutions you are part of to go beyond land acknowledgements and publicly support Indigenous sovereignty, or at the very least call for a peaceful resolution without militarized police violence. You can also contribute to the legal defence fund here.

 

This week, Scholar Strike is happening across Canada and the USA. From the Scholar Strike Canada website: “Scholar Strike originated in the U.S from a tweet by Dr. Anthea Butler who, inspired by the striking WNBA and NBA players, put out a call for a similar labour action from academics. The Canadian action is aligned with the one in the U.S., in its call for racial justice, an end to anti-Black police violence and it adds a specific focus on anti-Indigenous, colonial violence. Scholar Strike is a labour action/teach-in/social justice advocacy happening on September 9-10, 2020.” The website has a list of online events you can join. At McMaster, Syrus Marcus Ware from the School of the Arts is hosting a Scholar Strike Canada Roundtable Discussion and Teach In, about art and activism in Black organizing.

 

Finally, in recognition of labour day during a global pandemic, take a minute to learn more about the Decent Work and Health Network’s campaign for paid sick days. In August, the DWHN published Before It’s Too Late: how to close the paid sick days gap during COVID-19 and beyond. The report is a comprehensive, well researched look at paid sick leave – and the consequences of not having it – across Canada. Most striking was the finding that 58% of workers in Canada do not have paid sick days. And yet paid sick days protect both individual and community health. “There is no question that infections often spread quickly and easily in workplaces,” said Dr. Monika Dutt, Family Physician and Public Health Specialist from Nova Scotia. “As you will see in the report, cities with paid sick days saw a 40% reduction in influenza rates during flu waves compared to cities without.”

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

 

DONATE TO FUND REPAIRS TO KANYENKEHAKA KANONHSES via GoFundMe – they are $6130 away from their goal
DONATE TO THE SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS via e-transfer to landback6nations@gmail.com
ASK THE INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS you are affiliated with what they are doing to move beyond land acknowledgements and support the Six Nations land defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane
VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, or go on outreach, by signing up here.
DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) here.
DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org.
September 1: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 23


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 23

September 1, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters:

 

We hope you are all doing well and enjoying the cooler weather! Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

 

The September volunteer sign up schedule is live! Sign up to go on outreach, bake, or decorate paper lunch bags. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have already received the sign up link – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org if you haven’t received it.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for September, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

 

We were disappointed that council voted 9-3 to forgo mediation and proceed directly to a court hearing for the injunction. We believe mediation would result in a reasonable resolution for all parties, including Hamiltonians who do not want their tax dollars spent on unnecessary litigation. More importantly however, we could reach a reasonable resolution for vulnerable residents within the encampments – the people who need our cooperation and assistance the most. We want to be crystal clear – we are not advocating for people to stay in tents; rather, we are asking the city not to clear encampments so that people can be supported to find a housing option that meets their needs. Dismantling encampments only serves to disrupt relationships with people, it does not address the issue of homelessness. People do not simply disappear when encampments are cleared. We have made one last overture to Council in hopes that they will reconsider and keep this out of the courts. We encourage concerned Hamiltonians to take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs, and copy us info@hamsmart.ca and info@keepingsix.org as well as the city clerk clerk@hamilton.ca on all correspondence. See here for a fulsome timeline of events and a review of the ways that HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six have engaged with the City and other stakeholders to advance a public health and human rights based approach to encampments. Stay tuned for updates on this process.

 

We have figured out how to keep our street outreach operational until the end of 2020. Thanks to everyone who took the time to email us suggestions for funding. We are reflecting as a group on our actions to date, and considering how best to move forward.

 

Check out the Community Teach In: Why We Should Defund the Police at City Hall on Thursday September 3rd at 1 pm! HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six will be there, along with many other Hamilton groups who are committed to imagining a world without police and implementing alternatives to promote individual and community health. From the event page: “The Hamilton Police Board monthly meeting will be taking place this month on Thursday, September 3rd. This is where Chad Collin’s report on why a 20% reduction on the police budget is not possible will be released. On this day, we will be hosting a community teach-in in the foyer of City Hall to re-imagine community safety- a community without police. We will have conversations about what services in Hamilton we want to see funded. During this teach-in, we will hear lectures from academics on defunding the police, and we will host a community consultation, facilitate conversations on alternatives to policing, run activities, and MORE! This event is kid-friendly and all social distancing guidelines will be taken seriously. Food and Drinks will be provided.”

 

As we, a settler organisation, wrestle with the injunction process in defence of people’s autonomy, we call on everyone to read this statement about how injunctions are disproportionately used to dispossess Indigenous people of their sovereign rights. Please continue to follow the Six Nations land defenders.

 

Finally, yesterday was International Overdose Awareness Day. We have lost too many friends and neighbours here in Hamilton to overdose, thanks to a toxic illicit drug supply, stigma, and the criminalization of drugs. Awareness is not enough – we need action. We’re inspired by the amazing Overdose Prevention Line, operated by volunteers here in Hamilton and now available 24/7 to any Ontario resident. And check out this op-ed on safe supply written by one of our co-organizers, Dr Claire Bodkin.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

DONATE TO FUND REPAIRS TO KANYENKEHAKA KANONHSES via GoFundMe – they are $6700 away from their goal!

DONATE TO THE SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS via e-transfer to landback6nations@gmail.com

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request that they refrain from engaging in expensive and counterproductive litigation, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) here.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

August 17: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 22


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 22

August 17, 2020
Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

 

We hope you are all doing well and staying cool and dry! Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update. We are trying to shorten our weekly newsletters to only include new information each week.

 

The September volunteer sign up comes out this week! Sign up to go on outreach, bake, or decorate paper lunch bags. If you are a registered volunteer, you will receive the sign up link this week – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org if you haven’t received it by Friday.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for September, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

 

We remain hopeful for a just and amicable resolution with the city regarding their approach to homeless encampments. Stay tuned for updates on this process. For a perspective from frontline shelter social workers on some of the many barriers to housing for people who are homeless, check out this op ed in The Spec. For a perspective from a City Councillor who is taking the time to understand the nuance, complexity, and human rights at stake in this issue, read Maureen Wilson’s statement here.

 

Prior to the start of the pandemic, we did not operate any street outreach. Thanks to funding from the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Community Foundation and private donors, we have been able to operate street outreach three times a week for over 5 months now, delivering over 16000 lunches! Our funding runs out in mid-September, and we are looking at ways to continue our street outreach operation because the need still exists. If you have ideas on how we can sustain our work – please let us know!

 

We issued a statement of solidarity this week with the family of Soleiman Faqiri and Justice for Soli. They are calling for accountability in the wake of the Ontario Provincial Police’s decision not to lay criminal charges against any of the guards in relation to the beating and death of Soleiman in December 2016. They share that “Soleiman, who lived with schizophrenia, was in custody at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario, as he waited for a bed to open up at the Ontario Shores hospital. But on December 15, 2016, while transporting Soleiman from one unit to another, guards pepper sprayed Soleiman, put a spit hood on his head, punched and kicked him, and left him face down and restrained with his hands tied behind his back in a cell. Soleiman died during the attack.”

 

CONTINUE TO SUPPORT SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS. This week HAMSMaRT visited 1492 Landback Lane to deliver supplies and show our support. We encourage Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT supporters to follow the 1492 Landback Lane facebook page for regular updates and lots of great resources on the history and political context.  This compilation was put together by The Laurier Centre for Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and has some great background documents.  If you are pressed for time and can only read one thing, read this statement to the community by the land defenders.  To donate to the land and legal defence fund, you can e transfer landback6nations@gmail.com.

 

If you are a health worker or any other worker whose employer, association or union has issued statements or created initiatives about land acknowledgements and/or reconciliation, please reach out and ask what they are doing now to call for a political solution to this conflict.  If you have a leadership role in any of these same institutions, please take the step of issuing a statement in support of non-violence on the part of the provincial and federal governments and call on them to come to the table, as requested by the land defenders.   There is an urgent need for people in positions of privilege to echo the calls from the community for calm, de-escalation and a political and non-violent resolution to the conflict. We must show all levels of government that Canadians, as treatied people, support political resolutions to land claims.

 

We are thrilled to hear that Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion is leading the new Hamilton Community Benefits Network. In their words, “the network is a coalition of likeminded organizations and unions in Hamilton committed to building an inclusive, thriving city where all residents from Ward 1 to 15 have equitable economic, political and social opportunities.” This network is an essential part of pushing against the austerity measures we are expecting as part of a post-COVID “economic recovery” plan from all levels of government. Thank you again to HCCI for their leadership.

 

And finally – what else is possible? What are we working towards? How could healthcare be a liberatory practice? For inspiration, check out this podcast with family physician Dr. Anjali Taneja about Casa De Salud in New Mexico. In her words, ““We feel like we’ll die trying – we don’t know if we’ll get there but we’re aiming to build power with our community – and what does it mean for a healthcare clinic or institution … to build power with community?“ 

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

 

DONATE TO FUND REPAIRS TO KANYENKEHAKA KANONHSES via GoFundMe – they are $6700 away from their goal!
DONATE TO THE SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS via e-transfer to landback6nations@gmail.com
CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.
VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here.
DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) here.
DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!
AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.
August 10: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 21


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 20

August 10, 2020
Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,
 
We hope you are all doing well and staying cool and dry! Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.
 
The August volunteer sign up schedule is open! We still need people to help decorate paper lunch bags, and have isolated openings for outreach and baking. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have already received the sign up link – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org if you haven’t received it.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for August, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer. 
 
Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 750 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! We are still asking YOU, if you have the means, to make water, juice, or popsicle drops in the city. Our experience and consultation with the community suggests the following non-exhaustive list of locations are high needs: the parkette at King and Wellington Sts, Ferguson St Station between King and Main Sts, Gore Park, Rebecca St park (at John St), on top of Jackson Square, around City Hall, Corktown Park (Ferguson and Forrest Sts),  Beasley Park (Mary and Cannon Sts), Woodlands Park (Wentworth and Barton), outside the Barton branch of the Library.  If you would like to deliver water or juice or popsicles directly to an encampment, please remember that you are approaching someone’s home and do so as you would any other Hamilton resident’s home. Please do not drop off other items without confirming explicitly that they are needed – there is a growing issue with garbage at the encampments coming from well meaning but unhelpful donations.
 
The injunction to prevent the city from clearing homeless encampments has been extended, by consensus, until mid-September. We are grateful to be working with the Hamilton community to support people living in encampments, and hope the city is able to find housing arrangements acceptable to the people being housed for every person in an encampment. As alternative approaches to encampments, including sanctioned sites and permits, are being explored, we are talking to people in encampments to hear what system would work best for them. We also want to remind everyone reading this that we (HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six) have no exclusive ownership over encampments – we are heartened by the encampment support network in Toronto, where different groups of neighbours are supporting different encampments in their neighbourhoods. Anyone can do this work – find a friend, and get started! We do our best to always ask people in encampments what they need and follow their lead, and encourage others to do the same. 
 
You can add your voice to the growing movement for a humane and just approach to encampments and people who are homeless in the city. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to take action and/or offer services. Our requests are:
  1. Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  2. Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  3. Ensure that people have adequate access to potable water.
  4. Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.
  5. Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance:
    • The City not dismantle homeless encampments.
    • The City provide interim and permanent housing for encampment residents with necessary supports.
    • The City prioritize individuals experiencing homelessness for urgent housing placement.
    • The City engage encampment residents in assessing their needs prior to dismantling.
    • The City remove barriers inshelters and hotels in order to accommodate the individual needs of encampment residents.
    • The City allow for sanctioned encampment sites and/or designate specific parks/public lands where individuals are allowed to set up tents/temporary structures.
    • The City allow for a streamlined, low-barrier, accessible process of issuing permits allowing for tents and temporary structures.

 

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs, and copy us info@hamsmart.ca and info@keepingsix.org as well as the city clerk clerk@hamilton.ca on all correspondence. 

 
CONTINUE TO SUPPORT SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS. An overview of the situation from one of the organizers Skyler Williams can be viewed here and an update from this week can be listened to here. There are regular updates posted on the 1492 Land Back Lane facebook group. If you’re a settler, answer the call from people on the ground to email your MP and federal ministers. A copy of the most recent supplies needed list is here, but the facebook page will have ongoing updates. The site can only be accessed currently via 6th line road on Six Nations reserve, as the police have blocked highway 6. See screenshot attached with directions. There is also a call to donate funds for supplies and legal fees via e-transfer to landback6nations@gmail.com.  
 
Finally, as a harm reduction group and a healthcare group, we are continually reminded that we are living through another public health emergency – the overdose death crisis. We do not even have accurate data in Ontario, with the most recent provincial death statistics available being from September 2019. The province’s Chief Coroner Dr Dick Huyer recently commented that we are now seeing ~55 overdose deaths/week in Ontario, up from ~44/week pre-pandemic. As we lose people close to us, friends and patients we care for, we ask ourselves: how much longer this carnage will be allowed to go on unabated? We’ve seen how one public health emergency can bring state resources to bear – so why not the overdose crisis? Zoe Dodd and Mark Tyndall offer some insight in their article How Structural Violence, Prohibition, and Stigma Have Paralyzed North American Responses to Opioid Overdose. We encourage every health worker reading this newsletter to check out the article, which reminds us that “Physicians and physician groups can play a major role in all of these areas by including social support in their treatment plans, actively breaking down stigma by treating patients with respect, offering evidence-based addiction treatment, and promoting harm reduction. These interventions could greatly improve health care outcomes and reduce opioid overdose deaths. In addition, physicians should be at the forefront of challenging drug laws and a criminal justice system that inflicts so much harm on patients and their families.” We continue to consider how we can take action to mitigate the harms of drug criminalization.
 
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:
DONATE TO FUND REPAIRS TO KANYENKEHAKA KANONHSES via GoFundMe – they are $6700 away from their goal!
DONATE TO THE SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS via e-transfer to landback6nations@gmail.com
DROP WATER, JUICE, OR POPSICLES TO LOCATIONS IN THE CITY WHERE IT IS NEEDED See above for a list of potential places where there may be people who need drinks
CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.
VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here
DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) here.
DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!
AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.
August 4: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 20


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 20

August 4, 2020

It has been a busy week for us as we listen to what people living in encampments are saying and advocate with them for a humane approach to encampments in Hamilton. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

URGENT CALL TO ACTION FROM SIX NATIONS. There has been a peaceful occupation of a settler development on Six Nations territory, and today the OPP raided the occupation. The OPP are blocking anyone from coming into or leaving the site, and there are youth and Elders there. One of our Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT volunteers graciously shared her knowledge of the situation with us, and you can read more on her twitter here. There is a call right now for anyone who has capacity to show up with food and water to Kanohstaton, which can only be accessed currently via 6th line road on the reserve, as the police have blocked highway 6. See screenshot attached with directions. For folks who cannot show up, there is also a call to donate funds for supplies and legal fees via e-transfer to landback6nations@gmail.com.

The August volunteer sign up schedule is open! We still need LOTS of help with baking sweet treats and decorating paper lunch bags!If you are a registered volunteer, you should have already received the sign up link – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org if you haven’t received it. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for August, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 750 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! We are still asking YOU, if you have the means, to make water, juice, or popsicle drops in the city. Our experience and consultation with the community suggests the following non-exhaustive list of locations are high needs: the parkette at King and Wellington Sts, Ferguson St Station between King and Main Sts, Gore Park, Rebecca St park (at John St), on top of Jackson Square, around City Hall, Corktown Park (Ferguson and Forrest Sts), Beasley Park (Mary and Cannon Sts), Woodlands Park (Wentworth and Barton), outside the Barton branch of the Library. If you would like to deliver water or juice or popsicles directly to an encampment, please remember that you are approaching someone’s home and do so as you would any other Hamilton resident’s home.

We, along with a few encampment residents, filed for an emergency injunction which was granted Thursday July 30. We are being represented by Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and Wade Poziomka from Ross & McBride LLP. We received notice earlier in the week that the city planned to clear encampments at the First Ontario Centre and in front of the Wesley Day Centre on Ferguson on July 31 2020. When we did not receive written assurance that this would not occur, we consulted with people living in encampments and proceeded with seeking an injunction. This has resulted in a very public debate of the issue, with vocal support from community members and civil society groups, as well as vehement opposition from some councillors and other community members. A nice overview of the issue across Canada along with legal precedents is here. To understand our stance on the issues at hand, please see our statement here. Wade Poziomka also clarifies the crux of the disagreement we have with the city clearing encampments in an op-ed here. In short, all that we are saying, and all that we have ever said, is stop the inhumane practice of moving people on from encampments who have nowhere else to go. We wholeheartedly believe that people deserve safe, dignified, supported, accessible, affordable housing – but if that option is not available or doesn’t work for them, we keep working to find an option that does. Stay tuned for further updates on the encampments and ways to get involved, as the emergency injunction is only in place for up to 10 days.

You can add your voice to the growing movement for a humane and just approach to encampments and people who are homeless in the city. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to take action and/or offer services. Our requests are:

  • Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  • Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  • Ensure that people have adequate access to potable water.
  • Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.
  • Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
    • The City not dismantle homeless encampments.
    • The City provide interim and permanent housing for encampment residents with necessary supports.
    • The City prioritize individuals experiencing homelessness for urgent housing placement.
    • The City engage encampment residents in assessing their needs prior to dismantling.
    • The City remove barriers inshelters and hotels in order to accommodate the individual needs of encampment residents.
    • The City allow for sanctioned encampment sites and/or designate specific parks/public lands where individuals are allowed to set up tents/temporary structures.
    • The City allow for a streamlined, low-barrier, accessible process of issuing permits allowing for tents and temporary structures.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs, and copy us info@hamsmart.ca and info@keepingsix.org as well as the city clerk clerk@hamilton.ca on all correspondence.

We are watching the brave actions of Ahona Mehdi, a 2019-2020 HWDSB student trustee, who shared her observations and experiences of racism in this role, and the resulting investigation announced by HWDSB. We support the calls from Ms. Mehdi and HWDSB Kids Need Help for:

  • Transparency, as well as public and student consultation on all equity and anti-racism training provided to trustees.
  • Transparency around the investigation, including who is leading it, what they’re looking into and ensuring that their full report is released to the public and students.
  • Trustees involved in “blatantly anti-Black and racist incidents” be “impeached” immediately.

We also stand with ACORN Hamilton, who are protesting Bill 184. Bill 184 lifts the COVID-19 eviction moratorium and places hundreds of people at risk of eviction and homelessness. It is estimated that 7 to 9% of Ontarians were unable to pay rent during the pandemic. These people are now extremely vulnerable to becoming homeless. You can learn more about the issue and how to take action here.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

DONATE TO FUND REPAIRS TO KANYENKEHAKA KANONHSES via GoFundMe – they are just over halfway to their $15000 target!

DROP WATER, JUICE, OR POPSICLES TO LOCATIONS IN THE CITY WHERE IT IS NEEDED See above for a list of potential places where there may be people who need drinks

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

July 27: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 19


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 19

July 27, 2020

Happy end of July! It’s hard to believe that August is just around the corner. We hope you and your loved ones are well and finding ways to stay cool and recharge. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

The August volunteer sign up schedule is open! We still need a few outreach volunteers and LOTS of help with baking sweet treats and decorating paper lunch bags! Why not experiment with a no-bake treat in this heat? If you are a registered volunteer, you should have already received the sign up link – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org if you haven’t received it.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for August, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 750 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! The extreme heat and lack of access to drinkable water remains a priority issue right now. We are still asking YOU, if you have the means, to make water, juice, or popsicle drops in the city. Our experience and consultation with the community suggests the following non-exhaustive list of locations are high needs: the parkette at King and Wellington Sts, Ferguson St Station between King and Main Sts, Gore Park, Rebecca St park (at John St), on top of Jackson Square, around City Hall, Corktown Park (Ferguson and Forrest Sts),  Beasley Park (Mary and Cannon Sts), Woodlands Park (Wentworth and Barton), outside the Barton branch of the Library.  If you would like to deliver water or juice or popsicles directly to an encampment, please remember that you are approaching someone’s home and do so as you would any other Hamilton resident’s home. 

We are grateful to the evolving Beasley Neighbourhood Association for their op-ed in The Spec this week, voicing their support for our community members in tents. “In Hamilton, the social and economic fault lines couldn’t be clearer. In little tent encampments that have sprung up all around the lower-city, we are now also witnessing the result of years of underinvestment in public housing. The city housing department cannot even offer what its name suggests, attempting to convince homeless people to use a shelter system that many are avoiding for the same reasons wealthy Hamiltonians are avoiding indoor dining. We support all groups and individuals working to alleviate the social issues that have long existed downtown. At the risk of incurring the ire of council over an issue of basic human decency, our downtown neighbourhood association stands with local groups HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six.” We hope this is a growing movement towards YIMBYism (Yes In My Back Yard-ism).

You too can add your voice to the growing movement for a humane and just approach to encampments in the city. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to take action and/or offer services. Our requests are:

  • Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  • Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  • Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  • Ensure that people have adequate access to potable water.
  • Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

The current affordable housing crisis is the result of decades of neglect by all levels of government, including cities like Hamilton. Cities encourage the increase in property value because their revenues are made up almost entirely from taxing the value of property. Higher property values = more tax revenue for the city budget. But when property values go up, rent also goes up. This results in people staying in their current rental property, limiting the rental housing supply and driving average rental rates up even further. Property owners who can rent a property for a higher rate may use loopholes in the Residential Tenancy Act to evict long term tenants. Common strategies include moving a family member into the property briefly, or evicting long term tenants for the purpose of renovations (a practice known as renovictions). After the family member moves out again or the renovation is complete, the property is then rented at a higher rate, making the same property unaffordable to its previous tenants. Check out this excellent 2 minute video from Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network on how this happens here in Hamilton. Wages don’t rise at the same rate as property values, disability payments and other income supports are a fraction of the required amount for safe housing, and so people on fixed incomes are pushed out of their rental properties and neighbourhoods. Why? Because all levels of government see housing as an investment tool and wealth generator, rather than housing as a human right that all people are entitled to. While there are people who need supportive housing, there must be housing available in order to put supports in place. There are many more people who just need affordable housing. And for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people in Canada, homelessness is not simply lacking habitation – it is the result of historical and ongoing colonization that disrupts relationships with self, others, and the land. Addressing homelessness means dismantling colonization and making reparations.

We are in admiration of and solidarity with Black organizers in Hamilton who continue to advance the conversation around defunding the police in Hamilton. This week they painted a mural on Main Street in advance of the Police Services Board meeting. We are furious but not surprised that the police service is investigating this peaceful artistic disruption as a criminal matter. Of course they are using their state power to threaten and intimidate those who draw attention to state violence and more importantly the real possibility of alternatives. Every health worker reading this, especially every one of us who has written or signed a statement of solidarity with Black people – we now need to physically, financially, and politically act in solidarity with the activists who are boldly working towards a healthier, more just future for all Hamiltonians. If the institution you work with issued a letter of solidarity with Black Lives Matter, urge that same leadership to speak out now.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

DONATE TO FUND REPAIRS TO KANYENKEHAKA KANONHSES via GoFundMe – they are halfway to their $15000 target!

DROP WATER, JUICE, OR POPSICLES TO LOCATIONS IN THE CITY WHERE IT IS NEEDED See above for a list of potential places where there may be people who need drinks

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

July 21: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 18


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 18

July 21, 2020

Another hot, busy week with encampments becoming a hot button issue (even though the real issue is housing). This is a long read, so grab a glass of ice water or lemonade or iced coffee or whatever your refreshing beverage of choice is, and settle in. Or, just read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

The August volunteer sign up schedule will open this week! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags and going on outreach. If you are a registered volunteer, you should receive the sign up link this week – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org if you don’t get it by the end of the week.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for August, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

Live curbside performances are sold out, but there’s still time to get a ticket to the online viewing of Keeping Six Arts Collective and Open Heart theatre company’s “I Really Wish You Knew Me” at the Hamilton Fringe Festival.  The production features our K6 Arts Collective members Dani Deloitinville and Jammy Pierre, and is based on the stories we are hearing on outreach and through our arts programming.  Buy a ticket to watch online at your convenience.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 750  home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! We’ve also had some staffing changes, and are excited to welcome Vince Soliveri to the outreach coordinator role alongside Marcie McIlveen. The extreme heat and lack of access to drinkable water remains the number one issue right now. We are still asking YOU, if you have the means, to make water, juice, or popsicle drops in the city. Our experience and consultation with the community suggests the following non-exhaustive list of locations are high needs: the parkette at King and Wellington Sts, Ferguson St Station between King and Main Sts, Gore Park, Rebecca St park (at John St), on top of Jackson Square, around City Hall, Corktown Park (Ferguson and Forrest Sts),  Beasley Park (Mary and Cannon Sts), Woodlands Park (Wentworth and Barton), outside the Barton branch of the Library.  If you would like to deliver water or juice or popsicles directly to an encampment, please remember that you are approaching someone’s home and do so as you would any other Hamilton resident’s home.

This week the subject of encampments was discussed twice in virtual council chambers, once at the Emergency and Community Services Committee meeting on Monday and then again on Friday at the full Council meeting.  Last week we commented on the ECSC meeting; we are pleased that the committee directed city staff to respond to our delegations requesting a new approach to encampments and include an analysis of a human rights based approach to encampments as described by the UN special rapporteur on homelessness. Friday’s council meeting was a surprise to us, particularly the discussion about HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six’s response to encampments. Councillor Farr’s suggestion that we are part of the problem of encampments for handing out tents in response to the requests from people on the streets shows a lack of understanding about the root causes of homelessness. And we have tried to engage with him. HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six emailed Councillor Farr about encampments first on April 29, and received a brief response saying he was looking into it and would get back to us. We emailed him again May 10 to follow up. Nor did we receive a response to any of the many emails we were cc’d on from constituents requesting a changed approach to encampments. Before deriding us in public, Jason Farr made no effort whatsoever to speak to us.  Giving out tents is not where we started – we have tried to engage with both city councillors and city staff. While there has been a slowing of dismantling encampments in recent weeks, we have not been successful in securing assurances of a sustained  humane response to encampments in Hamilton. If we gifted the councillor a tent, would he go sleep in it on Ferguson St? Or would it be a leisure item for recreational camping? As we said on twitter, handing out tents is not illegal, & it is not the problem. People who are homeless are not the problem. HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six are not the problem. We are just trying to care for each other in the ways available to us in the face of the actual problems – a lack of stable, accessible, affordable, appropriate housing; racism, sexism, colonization, homophobia, and transphobia which all contribute to homelessness among racialized, Indigenous, queer, and trans people. We appreciate Paul Johnson, the General Manager of Healthy and Safe Communities, acknowledging the problem is a result of inadequate housing supply: “The amount of fully supportive housing in this community does not meet the demand that’s there,” and the editorial from The Hamilton Spectator in support of our encampment approach.

We recognize that the housing crisis is international in both scope and origin. It runs deeper than something that can be addressed by the city alone – but we believe there is a role for moral and economic leadership by the city. Housing can either be understood as a commodity to be bought, sold, and invested in; or as a human right essential for dignity, health, and community. The former has gotten us into the situation we face now, and the latter will get us out. City leadership should include a plea for understanding and engagement in response to constituent complaints about homelessnes, halting the dismantling of encampments, providing people living in encampments with drinking water and washrooms and healthcare and social service supports, and investing in housing that actually meets the needs of people who are currently unsheltered. This is good for public health, for individual health, and respects the dignity of every member of our community. We will continue to connect with the community on the question of encampments and advocate for a just and humane approach to encampments, that recognizes that people don’t cease to exist once moved along.

We don’t want to spend much time on Terry Whitehead’s response to an email from a concerned citizen about the encampments. It was rude and disrespectful. We are grateful to the person who sent the email for sharing the response and exposing this horrific approach to homelessness. Institutionalization is certainly not the answer and just a further entrenchment of state violence without producing any sort of good outcomes for the people and communities subject to it. This approach would violate Charter Rights and Freedoms. Anyone calling for institutionalization (or interested in learning more in order to refute these calls) can read more about the violence of this approach and its history and present manifestations, the intersections of institutionalization and COVID-19 in Canada, and the story of one survivor of the Huronia Regional Centre.

Add your voice to the growing movement for a humane and just approach to encampments in the city. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. Our requests are:

  • Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  • Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  • Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  • Ensure that people have adequate access to potable water.
  • Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

Finally, as always, we are inextricably linked to other struggles for justice. Kanyenkehaka kanonhses is the Mohawk Longhouse located at Six Nations reserve. The longhouse is in desperate need of repairs: the roof is damaged and the laneway needs to be fixed. They typically have a yard sale to fundraise for these funds from members and community, but that is not an option given COVID-19. One of our amazing HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six volunteers is coordinating online fundraisers instead. Please consider donating to the GoFundMe or bidding on items in the online auction. No Hate in the Hammer is marking one year of organizing in the city with an online event July 30. The steering committee will share what they’ve done in the past year and the actions taken since August to combat the spread of hate in Hamilton. Free tickets available here. Nearby, BLM-TO activists took action to disrupt a racist monument, and were then arrested and held for hours without access to medication and legal counsel. BLM-TO held space at 52 division police station overnight until all 3 were released. Hamilton activists were there in support. Please check out the video recording of their press conference from today for important details and analysis.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

DONATE TO FUND REPAIRS TO KANYENKEHAKA KANONHSES via GoFundMe or the online auction

DROP WATER, JUICE, OR POPSICLES TO LOCATIONS IN THE CITY WHERE IT IS NEEDED See above for a list of potential places where there may be people who need drinks

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

July 14: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 17


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 17

July 14, 2020

This week has been busy, particularly with respect to how the city is dealing with encampments and people living in encampments. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

The July volunteer sign up schedule is open and we are still looking for a few people to join the effort – especially people to buy and decorate brown paper bags that the lunches go in! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags and going on outreach. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have received the sign up link last week – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org you need it again.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for July, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

There’s still time to get a ticket to the Keeping Six Arts Collective and Open Heart theatre company’s “I Really Wish You Knew Me” at the Hamilton Fringe Festival.  The production features our K6 Arts Collective members Dani Deloitinville and Jammy Pierre, and is based on the stories we are hearing on outreach and through our arts programming.  Buy a ticket to watch online, OR have a theatre performance come right to your front door!

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 750  home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! The extreme heat and lack of access to drinkable water remains the number one issue right now. We are asking YOU, if you have the means, to make water and juice drops in the city. Our experience and consultation with the community suggests the following non-exhaustive list of locations are high needs: the parkette at King and Wellington Sts, Ferguson St Station between King and Main Sts, Gore Park, Rebecca St park (at John St), on top of Jackson Square, around City Hall, Corktown Park (Ferguson and Forrest Sts),  Beasley Park (Mary and Cannon Sts), Woodlands Park (Wentworth and Barton), outside the Barton branch of the Library.  If you would like to deliver water or juice directly to an encampment, please remember that you are approaching someone’s home and do so as you would any other Hamilton resident’s home.

On Friday morning of last week K6 was asked by the City to be on site at the York and Bay encampment outside of the  First Ontario Centre to support encampment residents while city workers came in to clear fire exits and remove large objects obstructing walkways and exits.  We were grateful to be included in the efforts to make the encampment safer for all Hamilton residents. This message of safety clean up was contradicted by what we heard from residents when a HAMSMaRT doctor arrived on site.  Residents had been told that morning that their personal belongings, beds and mattresses were being removed. Several supporters showed up on a moment’s notice to witness and stand in solidarity with people living there. HAMSMaRT and K6 were joined by people from Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and Disability Justice Network of Ontario. The fire exits and sidewalks were promptly cleared by residents, with the support of the staff at the FOC shelter. The city did NOT end up taking people’s belongings and their means of living  that day, and we believe it is because of the quick response of our friends and partners. Together, we can protect each other and keep everyone safe. There is still no good plan to ensure every person has access to adequate housing that meets their needs, and so we still demand that encampments are not cleared.

To this end, we have partnered with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic (HCLC) to advocate that the city change its current approach to encampments and refrain from moving people along unless a suitable and agreeable housing or living alternative is available to the person being moved. People do not simply disappear when they are moved along. Clearing encampments is a perpetual make work project of displacing people who have nowhere else to be. We are pleased to have delegated to the Emergency and Community Services Committee of the City of Hamilton yesterday morning, Monday July 13 at 9:30am.  Please read all three delegations from  HCLC, HAMSMaRT, and Keeping Six. You can watch a recording of the meeting here.  We are encouraged  to see this issue discussed and the delegations considered thoroughly. Councilor Brad Clark moved that the city solicitor provide a brief to the committee on the court decisions cited in the HCLC delegation, and their implications for the Hamilton context. Councilor Nann requested moved that there be a response to delegations in the upcoming report on encampments to the committee by city staff and that that same report also include an analysis of the human rights based approached advanced by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing in her National Protocol for Homeless Encampments (linked to below). The first motion carried unanimously and the second with a single dissenting vote.  We admit, we are a bit confused by Councilor Whitehead’s No vote to simply consider the implications of human rights based approach to encampments.  We will continue to connect with the community on the question of encampments and advocate for a just and humane approach to encampments, that recognizes that people don’t cease to exist once moved along.

Add your voice to the growing movement for a humane and just approach to encampments in the city. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. Our requests are:

 

  • Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  • Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  • Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  • Ensure that people have adequate access to potable water.
  • Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.

 

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

This week we invite you to learn more about encampments and think about how you might take action to support people living in encampments in our city. Our actions are guided by the perspectives of people living in encampments in Hamilton, A National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada from Make The Shift, and public health guidance from the CDC. For more information on encampments, although it is from the USA, this is a good primer on homeless encampments, various approaches to supporting them and those living in them, and what we know about their impact on communities. We are inspired by the Toronto Encampment Support Network, who provides direct support to people living in encampments. In their words, they are not an organization, just an organized group of people. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something – what can you do?

We continue to try to think about encampments and who has a right to be on what land in the context of Canada as a colonial state.  July 11th marks the 30th anniversary of the invasion of Kanesatake, what has come to be known as the Oka crisis.  In this remarkable chapter in Canadian and Mohawk history that resonates loud and clear today, Canada called in the military to defend the expansion of a golf course on a sacred burial ground.  Watch this short and poignant video of Ellen Gabriel, who was a leader on the ground in 1990 cut right to the heart of the matter.  Here, Gord Hill, author of 500 years of Resistance, summarizes the conflict and Mohawk victory in 5 minutes.  There is also a full length documentary Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance by filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin for a more fulsome history of events.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

DROP WATER AND JUICE TO LOCATIONS IN THE CITY WHERE IT IS NEEDED See above for a list of potential places where there may be people who need drinks

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

July 8: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 16


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 16

July 8, 2020

Forgive the delay in our weekly update!  It has been a long, hot week especially for those of us living outdoors or in housing without air conditioning. There are very few cooling centres in the city but we encourage you to access them if and when you need to – locations include the Central Public Library and a complete list is here: Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

The July volunteer sign up schedule is open and we are still looking for a few people to join the effort – especially people to buy and decorate brown paper bags that the lunches go in! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags and going on outreach. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have received the sign up link last week – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org you need it again.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for July, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

The tent drive has been an overwhelming success – thank you! Thanks to all of YOU, we have received $815 in donations and 14 tents to date – well on our way to our goal of 100 tents or $5000! We reiterate, as we continue to collect tents as a mitigation strategy, that all people deserve access to dignified housing that suits their needs. Please consider donating new or gently used tents or donating cash so we can buy items people need. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate cash, go to https://keepingsix.org/support/.

The Keeping Six Arts Collective is poised to make some exciting announcements about an online art gallery and store which will showcase our community’s amazing talent.  We are also in the final phases of launching an art competition for people with lived experience of homelessness and/or drug use.  Stay tuned!!! 

The K6 Arts Collective is on fire this week with the announcement of their partnership with Open Heart arts and entertainment group to participate in this year’s COVID modified Hamilton Fringe Festival.  Their production is called “I Really Wish You Knew Me” and features our K6 Arts Collective members Dani Deloitinville and Jammy Pierre.  Buy a ticket to have a theatre performance come right to your front door!

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! The extreme heat and lack of access to drinkable water remains the number one issue right now.   The places where people would normally access water continue to be largely either closed or are prohibiting people from using the bathrooms to access water or the facilities.  Social service agencies and community organizations like ours are working hard, with the support of donated water bottles from the city, to meet the demand for water, but we cannot keep up.  While we wait for the city to respond with a more fulsome response to our urgent requests to make potable water more available to people experiencing homelessness or those who are forced to leave their sweltering apartments, we are asking residents, who have the means, to make water and juice drops in the city. Our experience and consultation with the community suggests the following  non-exhaustive list of locations are high needs: the parkette at King and Wellington Sts, Ferguson St Station between King and Main Sts, Gore Park, Rebecca St park (at John St), on top of Jackson Square, around City Hall, Corktown Park (Ferguson and Forrest Sts),  Beasley Park (Mary and Cannon Sts), Woodlands Park (Wentworth and Barton), outside the Barton branch of the Library.  If you would like to deliver water or juice directly to an encampment, please remember that you are approaching someone’s home and do so as you would any other Hamilton resident’s home.

We are also hearing on outreach of a downtown business denying homeless people service because they are homeless. We will be watching this situation closely.

People are grateful the Wesley showers are open – thank you to the Wesley, the YWCA, and Mission Services for providing these services!  Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. Our requests are:

  1. Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  2. Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  3. Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  4. Ensure that people have adequate access to potable water.
  5. Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

The June 18 webinar on mutual aid in Hamilton is now available to view online here: https://youtu.be/qLOKSjf92j0. Please feel free to share widely! You can turn on closed captions for accessibility – HUGE thank you to Yotakahron Jonathan, Alana Seldon, and Cara Evans for editing captions.

As we continue to learn as a group about defunding the police and how health workers can play a role in this work, we read this piece by Edward Hon-Sing Wong on the racist and colonial history of mental healthcare in Canada. In short: the history is long, violent, and ongoing. We cannot replace police with mental health workers without dismantling racism in mental health institutions and professions. We encourage everyone to read it, with the note that it includes explicit descriptions of racism, colonization, and ableism.

As justice seeking health workers, HAMSMaRT is committed to working to dismantle racism in the health care system more broadly. We look to take our lead from community leaders like the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion. They are hosting a series of important  Anti-Racism Online Sessions.  Wednesday (July 8th, 6 pm – 7 pm) the session will feature Yotakahron Jonathan (Mohawk Bear Clan of Six Nations of The Grand River, and a HAMSMaRT/Keeping Six cookie baking volunteer extraordinaire!) to talk about “An Indigenous perspective on racism within Healthcare.”  Watch live on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube.  See you there!

This past week marked the significant colonial anniversaries and celebrations of the plunder that are Canada Day and the Fourth of July.  Here is a short video with the words of Art Manuel, legendary Indigenous writer and activist, from the 2017 Unsettling Canada150 campaign on what we are called to celebrate on July 1.  As Donald Trump marks the founding of the United States in the territory of the Lakota Sioux people in the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore on the day before the anniversary of this 1852 speech delivered by Frederick Douglass, What to The Slave is the Fourth of July, we reflect on what it means to advocate for, work for and create justice on colonized land.  We ask ourselves what does housing security and justice look like on stolen land? How do we reduce the harms of drug use without reducing the harms of colonization? How can there be justice for any if there is not justice for all?

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

June 30: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 15


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 15

June 30, 2020

Happy Pride to all of our K6 and HAMSMaRT friends – we remember that the first Pride was a riot, led by trans women of colour! It’s been another busy week for the HAMSMaRT and K6 team, with lots to tell you about. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

 

The July volunteer sign up schedule is open and we are still looking for a few people to join the effort – especially people to bake! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags and going on outreach. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have received the sign up link last week – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org you need it again.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for July, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer. Please spread the word to friends and family, and pull together a team if you have the capacity – we have one crew from Elora, ON of about 6 bakers who sign up for a single day and each contribute 1 or 2 dozen baked goods.

We are still collecting donations, with many people asking us for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags, as well as cold drinks as the weather gets warmer. We are launching a tent and sleeping bag drive today! Please donate new or gently used tents and sleeping bags. Cash is also useful so we can buy items people need. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate cash, go to https://keepingsix.org/support/.

Dr Tim O’Shea with HAMSMaRT is gearing up to start offering COVID-19 testing to farm workers in the Hamilton region. We were enraged to see the Government of Ontario allow asymptomatic or presymptomatic workers continue to work alongside other people. As Tim tweeted, “There is no reasonable public health justification or explanation for this plan; the only way to land on this policy is by first deciding that some lives are worth more than others.” While we believe that testing is an important way to protect the health of all workers, it is not sufficient. Farm workers must be guaranteed that they will not lose income, their job, or their immigration status if they test positive. Undocumented workers must be guaranteed that they will not be deported. And safer living and working conditions that limit transmission of COVID-19 must be provided, along with the legal rights of permanent resident status. To learn more, read this article where organizers with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change articulate the problems and necessary solutions.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs.  Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! The heat and lack of access to drinkable water is the number one issue right now. On outreach this week, we heard about how difficult it is for people to survive when access to facilities and services keeps changing. The porta potties in front of First Ontario Centre were removed, and shower access remains restricted. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. Our requests are:

  1. Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  2. Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  3. Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  4. Quickly establish methods for distributing water while water fountains are shut down.
  5. Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

In local news, Lyndon George shared his story about how “systemic racism affected the inadequate care for chest pains and shortness of breath he received at Hamilton General’s emergency department.” His story is all too familiar to Black and Indigenous people, who have to “‘strategize’ to receive care, ‘navigate’ the system, or ‘self-triage’ by relying on friends and family when the normal points of access are closed to them.” We hope you read his story and reflect on how we can hold the institutions we work in and receive care from accountable to anti-racist work. And people in prison at Barton St jail, aka the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre, are on hunger strike to protest the decline in meal quality since COVID-19 started. They are also highlighting other issues caused by COVID-19 precautions in the name of “safety”, such as restrictions on visitors, and rotating lockdowns that limit access to programs and outdoor time. When the spectre of safety is invoked, we must always ask – who defines what safety is, who is safety for, who is left out, and who is harmed? We encourage you to consider these questions while listening to an audio statement about conditions inside the jail and demands for dignity from one of the hunger strikers.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association released their report Stay Off the Grass: COVID-19 and law enforcement in Canada. It documents what we and many other advocates have been saying all along about pandemic laws and ticketing – “the arbitrary rules, increased enforcement powers, and significant fines are having a disproportionate impact on specific communities, including Black, Indigenous, and other racialized groups, those with precarious housing, recent immigrants, youth, members of the LGBTQ2S community, and certain religious minorities.” And of course, these groups are not mutually exclusive. People exist at the intersections of these identities and experiences, and face increased state sanctioned violence as a result. There is no safety for people who are homeless and people who use drugs without safety for people who are Black and people who are Indigenous and all racialized people. This is one of the many, many reasons why HAMSMaRT supports Black organizers who are calling and acting to defund the Hamilton Police Service.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

June 22: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 14


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 13

June 22, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

More than half way through 2020, we all know and feel that it has been a very difficult and exhausting year so far.  We continue to take heart from the tireless contributions and enthusiasm of our volunteers, members and friends.  Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

Our new outreach coordinators, Marcie and Hannah, have hit the ground running and have done a wonderful job of taking over this important aspect of our work.  Thank you Hannah and Marcie! The brand new volunteer sign up schedule for July is out now! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags and going on outreach. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have received the sign up link this morning – shoot us an email if you need it again.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for July, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations, with many people asking us for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags, as well as drinks as the weather gets warmer – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of gently used or new tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, and tarps. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate cash, go to https://keepingsix.org/support/.

On June 18th,  in partnership with the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, we hosted a webinar on Mutual Aid. Thank you to all of you who joined online,  and thanks to New Vision United Church for hosting a physically distanced viewing party.   Thank you also to our panelists from the Sex Workers Action Project, Care Mongering- HamOnt, Kyle’s Place and Strathcona Community Care Response.  It was an inspiring evening of sharing what grass roots care for one another rooted social justice and relationship building has looked like on many fronts. We are just putting some finishing touches on the video and will share shortly.  We look forward to future opportunities to come together to share and learn from one another!

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs.  Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! The heat and access to drinkable water is of growing concern.  Our team worried at this week’s debrief that as Hamilton begins to open back up our friends and loved ones living in shelter or sleeping rough will again be left behind as restrictions relax. Many people also reported being senselessly ticketed by police. We reiterate, this is a counter productive  practice and serves only to harass and antagonize people experiencing homelessness.   Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. Our requests are:

  • Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  • Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  • Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  • Quickly establish methods for distributing water while water fountains are shut down.
  • Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

Sunday June 21 marked National Indigenous Peoples Day! We are reminded that before the world was overtaken by the COVID pandemic, the country was galvanized by the brave resistance of the Wet’suwet’en people in defense of their land and their sovereignty.  The fight against many pipeline projects continues across these lands.  Learn more and support!

We continue to talk and learn and strategize around the growing movement to defund the police. More and more people are seeing the connections between anti-Black and anti Indigenous racism.  Listen to this helpful podcast by Pam Palmater, Mi’kmaw lawyer, professor and activist with Robyn Maynard, Black feminist writer, activist and educator on police and anti-Black racism.

Our work, as community organizers and health care workers is founded in the principle that those who live it, know it.  Those who live it understand the realities, struggles and ways to solve problems and build alternatives better than anyone.  For this reason, when Black, Indigenous, racialized and LGBTQ2S students say that police in their schools make them less safe, we listen.  We listen, and we recognize that they have the authority, based in their own experiences and analyses, to come up with solutions to the problems imposed on them. We need decision makers who listen too.  Learn more about what they are saying and why students want police out of their schools by following @HWDSBKids Need Help. Time is of the essence, with the last School Trustee Board meeting of the school year taking place tonight. .

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

June 15: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 13


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 13

June 15, 2020

Happy almost-solstice! The long, sunny days are boosting our spirits. As we enter the fourth month of pandemic conditions and street outreach, we are learning & growing just like the flora and fauna around us. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

Our quarterly zine is out! Check out the digital copy for art, stories, and insights from people we meet on outreach. This edition is titled “Love in the time of COVID-19” and features art from a mini-zine project titled “I really wish you knew me”.
We are still looking for a few people to sign up for June! In particular we need one or two people each week to bake 100 sweet treats, and brown paper bag decorators! And the July volunteer schedule will come out later this week. We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and shopping for supplies. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have received the sign up link in May- shoot us an email if you need it again.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for June or July, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations, with many people asking us for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags, as well as drinks as the weather gets warmer – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of gently used or new tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, and tarps. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate cash, go to https://keepingsix.org/support/.

Over 90 people are registered for our webinar on mutual aid in Hamilton, in partnership with the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. Join us Thursday, June 18th from 6 pm to 730 pm by getting your free ticket here https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/hamilton-mutual-aid-webinar-tickets-107735166784. We encourage you to host a physically distant viewing party in your workplace, place of worship, or community space!

Welcome to our two new co-coordinators! We were overwhelmed with the positive response to the job posting for the coordinator role. We have been able to hire two (!!!) fantastic people to run the outreach show the next 3 months, Marcie and Hannah. Marcie says “I am a person with lived experience who has come full circle. From being institutionalized and homeless to being at a place and in a position to give back and be a part of the solution. My dream is to see all people treated as people. And all voices to be heard.” Hannah Altimas shares “I am so grateful to be joining the K6 and HAMSMaRT team. With a passion for social justice, activism, outreach, and a background in wilderness therapy and remote emergency medicine I was concerned I would never find a job that truly utilized my eclectic skill set to its full potential. I am very glad to be proven wrong. I am excited to join the K6 and beyond jazzed to be a part of the outreach team. It really feels like a perfect match.” Please join us in extending a warm welcome to Marcie and Hannah!

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. People’s spirits were high this week, with the sun and warmth making life more comfortable. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! 

Services remain limited downtown, and although it was a cooler week, planning needs to continue to ensure people have places to be and live, easy access to drinking water, places to use the washroom, and places to shower and do laundry. Just down the road there is a fantastic partnership between the YMCA and the City of London that could serve as a model. And while we acknowledge that homelessness will not be solved by individual small scale modular housing, we were intrigued and impressed to hear about a new community of small cabins for people who are homeless in Kitchener, ON. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. Our requests are:

  1. Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  2. Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  3. Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  4. Quickly establish methods for distributing water while water fountains are shut down.
  5. Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

Black Lives Matter rallies and organizing continued at a pace across Canada, the United States and around the world this past week. As organizations and individuals we continue to think and talk and strategize around the growing movement, advanced by Black and Indigenous thinkers, writers, organizers, activists and everyday people, to defund the police.  A month ago, the idea of diverting resources from armed organizations vested with the power and mandate to criminalize and contain problems of inequality,and exploitation toward infrastructure and services that could actually alleviate some of those injustices, would never see the light of day in mainstream conversations and media discourses. We thank BIPOC organizers for bringing this generative, life and community affirming idea into the spotlight. We encourage everyone to keep the pressure and momentum going. This is a long fight with enormous potential for justice seeking people across many different intersecting issues.

British Columbia released official numbers for May 2020 last week; 170 people died by overdose from a toxic drug supply. That is the most ever recorded in a single month in BC, and more than the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in BC since the pandemic started. Anecdotally we have seen a spike in overdose deaths here in Hamilton, although we do not have official numbers yet. We are heartbroken at the loss of these community members, friends, family members, people. Dr Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer, points to an increasingly toxic drug supply with international borders shut down, and increased social isolation as two factors contributing to the increase. We were extremely disappointed to see some people suggest via the media that the CERB benefit and people having increased access to cash is responsible for increased overdose deaths. Correlation is not causation, and it supports a dangerous and paternalistic narrative that people who are poor cannot be trusted to use money responsibly. People die from overdose because the illicit drug supply is toxic. We need the decriminalization of substances and access to a safe, regulated drug supply now. 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

JOIN THE HAMILTONIANS AGAINST DECAIRE VIRTUAL PROTEST Wednesday June 17. In support of the demand from Black organizers in Hamilton to remove Glenn De Caire from his position as Director of Campus Security and Parking, and dissolve the Special Constables Unit at McMaster University. Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/704127483704395.

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

June 8: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 12


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 12

June 8, 2020

It has been a sunny, beautiful week full of bold actions in the face of injustice. Some of us are exhausted with the constant violence, while others are invigorated by the possibilities of mass movements – or a mix of both. In this newsletter: we’ve received more funding to sustain outreach; people are facing heat- and sun-related challenges; and continued reflection on what we can do to dismantle racism. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

The June volunteer schedule is out and we are still looking for a few people to sign up! In particular we need one or two people each week to bake 100 sweet treats, and brown paper bag decorators! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and shopping for supplies. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for June, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations, with many people asking us for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags, as well as drinks as the weather gets warmer – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of gently used or new tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, and tarps. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate cash, go to https://keepingsix.org/support/.

We launched registration for our webinar on mutual aid in Hamilton, in partnership with the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. Join us Thursday, June 18th from 6 pm to 730 pm by getting your free ticket here https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/hamilton-mutual-aid-webinar-tickets-107735166784. We encourage you to host a physically distant viewing party in your workplace, place of worship, or community space.

We are grateful to have received funding from the City of Hamilton this week – with funding from the Hamilton Community Foundation and the City of Hamilton, we will be able to continue outreach for the next 3 months! And we are hiring a coordinator to help sustain this work. Thank you to everyone who donated to us in the early months of the pandemic, and if you have ideas on how to sustain and grow our funding so that we can sustain and grow our work, we would love to hear from you.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 900 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. One person told us she saves every lunch bag she gets because of the art and messages on them. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen!

Services remain limited downtown and people are already struggling to cope with the heat. The number of designated cooling centres have been drastically reduced and are only open during heat warnings. There are no public water fountains operating because of the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Increased city wide efforts to support people in coping with the heat are urgently needed. Thanks to the YWCA for opening their doors so that women can shower. There is another community organization working hard to open a men’s shower facility soon. We are angry to have witnessed policing ramping up in the last week, with more people who are homeless reporting to our legal outreach volunteer that they are being ticketed daily and sometimes multiple times per day, along with public criticism of people who are homeless existing in public spaces. Once again, this is NOT an effective public health strategy – we need to open more spaces and facilities, offer more support, make facilities and supports low barrier to access, so that people can practice physical distancing and public health measures. And beyond not being effective, it is harmful – policing targets people who are poor, people who are Black and Indigenous, people who have active severe mental illness, and as we continue to see throughout the world and here in Canada this comes with a very real risk of being injured or killed. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. People need places to be and live, places to use the washroom, and places to shower. We have updated our requests, although they remain simple and common sense:

  1. Stop ticketing people who are homeless.

  2. Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.

  3. Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.

  4. Quickly establish methods for distributing water while water fountains are shut down.

  5. Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

We were horrified to learn the news about Chantel Moore this past week, who was shot and killed by police doing a “wellness check”. It reaffirms our belief that we as healthcare workers and community members must build alternative ways to respond to mental health crises that are unarmed and do not involve police. The call to defund the police and reinvest in social and life affirming infrastructure and services like housing, health care and education has a long history.  Think critically and learn more about this – this Op Ed from Sandy Hudson, BLM Toronto co-founder, is a good place to start.  We support the call from local Black leaders to defund the police; you can sign their petition to show your support. But we know that signing a petition is only the first step. What else can we do?  We can look at the demands in the petition and see where we can push them forward – for example, if we are affiliated with McMaster University, we can work on getting Glenn DeCaire removed from his position; if we have school-aged children or we are employed by Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, we can work on getting School Resource Officers removed from schools. We can learn from Alton Byrne about the history of police and police-involved killings in Hamilton. We can learn from Kojo Damptey about the size of various Ontario police budgets. And we can donate to Chantel Moore’s family to ensure they can grieve properly and provide financial support for her mother and daughter.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

LEARN AND ACT TO DISMANTLE ANTI-BLACK AND ANTI-INDIGENOUS RACISM See some of the suggestions above.

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments and ticketing, and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing people with adequate water, shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

June 1: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 11


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 11

Welcome to June!

June 1, 2020

Happy June! Here we are, starting week 12 of our pandemic response. It has been a heartbreaking week across Turtle Island (aka North America). This week we are reflecting on how our work connects to other struggles in the city and across the world. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

The June volunteer schedule is out and we are still looking for lots of people to sign up! Especially for this week on baking! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and shopping for supplies. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for June, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations, with many people asking us for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of cell phones, tablets, tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, tarps, and individually packaged juice, cans of pop, or water bottles. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate electronics or phones email info@hamsmart.ca. To donate bottles of water email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 900 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. In the heat early this week, people were especially in need of water and other beverages. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! 

With the heat, cooling stations were opened in city facilities across Hamilton. We were surprised and pleased to see how quickly these were opened. We were also dismayed as we have been advocating for more washrooms since the beginning of this pandemic – more than 12 weeks – and repeatedly told it was not possible. Clearly it is possible to mobilize the resources needed to open washrooms. In discussing the problem of lack of bathrooms with others in the community, we are focused on the fact that the need for public commons cuts across many groups and demographics. With summer upon us people of all walks of life will need public places to escape the heat, and those places will need to have bathrooms. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. People need places to be and live, places to use the washroom, and places to shower. There are three simple requests:

  1. Immediately enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  2. Work to quickly open more washrooms throughout downtown.
  3. Work to quickly open community centres or other publicly owned facilities for people to have showers.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

We are excited to announce that we are hosting a webinar on mutual aid in Hamilton, in partnership with the DIsability Justice Network of Ontario. Please hold Thursday, June 18th from 6 pm to 8 pm in your calendars. More information will come later this week on how to attend! We encourage you to host a physically distant viewing party in your workplace, place of worship, or community space.

The violence and injustice of anti-Black racism in the USA and Canada has been heavy on our minds and hearts this week. Racism is a public health issue. Hearing Regis Korchinsky-Paquet’s mother share “I asked police yesterday if they could take my daughter to CAMH [the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health], and my daughter ended up dead,” makes us reflect as health workers on the actions we need to take to change how mental health crises are responded to. This includes removing police from the response process. Whether it is ticketing people who are homeless in a pandemic, the criminalization of drugs, or an armed response to a mental health crisis, policing is not an effective health intervention. In fact it is harmful to health, with disproportionate violence aimed at Black and Indigenous people.  We need to imagine, create, and implement alternatives to policing rooted in community and care for one another.

HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six are multi racial groups, but many of us are non-Black, non-Indigenous people of colour, or white. So what does it mean for us to commit to anti-racist health work?  We are asking ourselves how we can support each other, our communities, and deepen our anti-racism and specifically our anti-Black racism work. First, we are listening to and amplifying the voices of anti-racist  BIPOC scholars, activists, colleagues and friends. Some possible starting points: read Robin Maynard’s Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present; read and amplify Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion’s (HCCI) letter calling for a public investigation into the death of Ms. Korchinski-Paquet;  support advocates calling for an equity advisory committee in the collection of race based COVID data in Hamilton; white people read White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism; and join one of the bi-weekly online Anti-Racism Conference sessions facilitated by HCCI.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE NOT BLACK – ENGAGE IN ANTI-BLACK RACISM LEARNING & ACTION See some of the suggestions above.

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments  and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing them with adequate shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE INDIVIDUAL BOTTLES OF WATER, JUICE BOXES, OR CANS OF POP An essential item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

May 25: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 10


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 9

May 25, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

Around here things are settling into a routine. The big thing we need right now is June volunteers, and we are thinking of creative ways to bring the community together to meet everyone’s basic needs by delivering services and pushing the city to step up and meet the needs of every Hamiltonian. We are also starting to consider what the “new normal” might look like, and how it can foster social inclusion rather than further marginalize people. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

The June volunteer schedule is out and we are still looking for lots of people to sign up! Especially for the first week of June on outreach! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and shopping for supplies. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for June, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations, with many people asking us for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of cell phones, tablets, tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, tarps, and individually packaged juice, cans of pop, or water bottles. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate electronics or phones email info@hamsmart.ca. To donate bottles of water email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 900 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! We are building community and capacity as an organization through this work, and we are so glad to be bringing people together during this time of intense isolation.

Mid-last week we learned from the City that it could not maintain its contract with the company providing the temporary toilets at York and Bay and that they were going to be removed.  By the end of the week a contract was re-secured! We firmly believe this was because of the public response to the news. In a city the size of Hamilton, not opening public toilets to those with no other access is about who we prioritize. If dignity for everyone and public health is truly the priority, we know the city can marshall the financial, human, and physical resources to operate washrooms. We have to ask ourselves as a city why this issue, and others related to it, are so intractable. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. People need places to be and live, places to use the washroom, and places to shower. There are three simple requests:

  1. Immediately enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  2. Work to quickly open more washrooms throughout downtown.
  3. Work to quickly open community centres or other publicly owned facilities for people to have showers.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

And finally a note on the future. This pandemic has laid bare the systems and structures that actively work to marginalize and exclude people and communities. For example, transphobia exacerbates social isolation during COVID-19. At the Hamilton Trans Health Coalition meeting last week they noted “there is an increase in requests for support from trans youth struggling from being stuck home with unsupportive family [members] or having their thinking and plans around identity and coming out complicated further by social distancing.” Thankfully there is the coalition and many member organizations who are working hard to serve trans youth in Hamilton during this time. Another example is how racism shapes who is in lower paying, frontline jobs and the healthcare they receive. This piece, originally published in the Toronto Star, tells the heartbreaking story of Leonard Rodriques, a Black PSW who died of COVID-19.

So what do we do? Thanks to broad-based public advocacy led by the Alliance for Healthier Communities, Ontario will soon start collecting race-based COVID-19 data. The data will allow us to measure racial health disparities, identify the ways that racism operates in our province, and do something about it. There are countless ways we can change the world, if we work together and demand better from our government and ourselves. Dr Andrea Sereda from London, ON shares her thoughts on how individualized overdose prevention, medical interventions, systems-level responses, and a philosophical shift can “open the system” to people who are homeless and people who use drugs. Steve Rolfe from Indwell shares how supportive housing has created an environment where 60+ tenants have become “leaders in encouraging physical distancing among their neighbours, wearing masks as appropriate and actively participating with staff to implement measures that ultimately keep people safe,” and suggests that “an affordable apartment in the heart of a vibrant and caring neighbourhood, with professional supports readily available — for everyone who needs a home,” is what’s needed in our post-pandemic world. We ask all of you to take heart, and imagine the world we can build together – one where everyone matters, everyone is included, and every community can determine health on their own terms.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR AND THE MAYOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments  and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing them with adequate shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE INDIVIDUAL BOTTLES OF WATER, JUICE BOXES, OR CANS OF POP An essential item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

May 11: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 9


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 9

May 19, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

Hello and thanks for reading our weekly updates! We hope they offer some connection to each other and the greater Hamilton community. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We were incredibly grateful to find out we are receiving another $20 000 from the Hamilton Community Foundation to continue our work. We await word about pandemic emergency response funding from the City of Hamilton, and will finalize a plan shortly for spending acquired funds to sustain and strengthen our response. Our pandemic response to date has been entirely volunteer organized and run, and we are immensely proud of how Hamiltonians have stepped up. Together, we can meet the needs of everyone in our community.

The June volunteer schedule will come out later this week for people to sign up! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and shopping for supplies. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for June, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations, with many people asking us for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of cell phones, tablets, tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, tarps, and individually packaged juice, cans of pop, or water bottles. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate electronics or phones email info@hamsmart.ca. To donate bottles of water email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, even on the very rainy Thursday (thank you outreach volunteers!), with more than 900 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. We sound like a broken record because things have not changed much: people need places to be and live, places to use the washroom, and places to shower. Another week and no new public access porta potties or washrooms have been established by the city, and the city still refuses to stop clearing encampments as it sees fit. We continue to press the city for action on the following items:

  1. Immediately enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  2. Work to quickly install more porta potties throughout downtown.
  3. Work to quickly open community centres or other publicly owned facilities for people to have showers.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. Recognizing how fortunate we and others are to have financial support from Hamilton Community Foundation, here are other groups in Hamilton and Ontario doing essential work. Consider how you can support them! These groups may also be able to offer you help when you need it.

  1. Downtown East Mutual Aid – a group of neighbours in east Hamilton who are helping each other with groceries, shopping for and delivering supplies, soliciting and delivering donated supplies, offering emotional support, and more. You can learn how to access support or make a donation here https://downtowneastmutualaid.ca/.
  2. Strathcona Community Care Response – a group of neighbours in Strathcona who are fundraising and delivering essential supplies to neighbours. You can join their group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/583108168949506/ and donate here https://ca.gofundme.com/f/covid19-community-care-fund-strathcona-amp-area.
  3. Kyle’s Place – a pre-COVID trans and non-binary prioritized space that is committed to fostering community, solidarity, support, advocacy and access to resources. They are helping to cover the cost of medications including hormones, distributing free gender gear, delivering prescriptions and supplies, and creating and distributing care packages of food, cloth masks, and other essentials. You can donate by e-transfer to transpeersupport@gmail.com and learn more here about their work and how to access support https://www.facebook.com/Kyles.place19/.
  4. Glia – another pre-COVID project, led by Dr Tarek Loubani in London, ON. Their mission is to produce high-quality low-cost open source medical hardware that makes a difference. Their initial focus was on providing medical equipment to Palestine and the Gaza Strip, and they now also produce open source face shields for Canadian medical workers. Anyone around the world can access their open source designs. Learn more and donate or order here: https://glia.org/.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments  and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing them with adequate shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE INDIVIDUAL BOTTLES OF WATER An essential item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

May 11: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 8


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 8

May 11, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

Happy (belated) Mother’s Day! We hope you all found a way to honour the mothers, aunts, grannies, and feminine or genderqueer caregivers in your lives – including yourselves, if you identify with these roles. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and shopping for supplies. We’ve also directed many folks to volunteer with the rest and hygiene centres organized and operated by downtown churches. First it was St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, then New Vision United Church came on board, and today Christ Church Cathedral opens their doors. This means that 7 days a week from 10 am to 9 pm people can take a rest, eat a snack, and use a washroom. This is the power of community. We are still looking for a few May volunteers to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, and the June volunteer schedule will come out next week. If you are registered as a volunteer but haven’t signed up yet, please do. You should have received a separate email with the sign up schedule. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for the May or June schedule, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of cell phones, tablets, tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, tarps, and individually packaged juice, cans of pop, or water bottles. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate electronics or phones email info@hamsmart.ca. To donate bottles of water email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 900 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. The message is the same: people need places to be and live, places to use the washroom, and places to shower. There is still no moratorium on clearing encampments, and the Jackie Washington Park encampment was cleared this past Wednesday. Dr Jill Wiwcharuk had an op-ed in today’s Hamilton Spectator highlighting this issue. No new public access porta potties or washrooms have been established. We are very grateful to the various social service agencies who have stepped up to offer some access to showers or laundry, but this too remains an urgent need. We continue to press the city for action on the following items:

  1. Immediately enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  2. Work to quickly install more porta potties throughout downtown.
  3. Work to quickly open community centres or other publicly owned facilities for people to have showers.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs.

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. One thing we are really enjoying is seeing all the new ways of digital organizing, and being able to learn from other organizers as they host webinars, record podcasts, take action, and engage communities. We will share a few of our favourites from this past week and encourage you to check them out!

  1. A conversation about Covid-19 and women’s homelessness with Leah Gazan (MP Winnipeg Centre), Leilani Farha (former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing and Global Director of The Shift), Dr. Kaitlin Schwan (Co-Chair of the Canadian Womens National Housing and Homelessness Network), and Anjum Sultana (Director of Public Policy & Strategic Communications at YWCA Canada).
  2. #WetsuwetenStrong Virtual Rally and Online Communications Blockade to Tell KKR: Respect Indigenous Rights. Actions included making banners and sharing pictures, telephone calls, tweets, and emails, as well as an online speaking event that you can listen to here.
  3. CareMongering-HamOnt: Hamilton Community Response to COVID19 sharing their guiding principles and taking questions from group members about their work and principles.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they place a moratorium on the removal of encampments  and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing them with adequate shelter, food, and services. You can find contact info for your city councillor here.

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE INDIVIDUAL BOTTLES OF WATER An essential item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

May 4: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 7


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 7

May 4, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

Happy May! We hope you all found a way to enjoy the sunshine and warmth this weekend. It certainly lifted out spirits. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, shopping for supplies, and staffing the rest and hygiene at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and New Vision United Church downtown. We are still looking for a few May volunteers – including someone to bake sweet treats this week. If you are registered as a volunteer but haven’t signed up yet, please do. You should have received a separate email with the sign up schedule. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for the May schedule, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of cell phones, tablets, tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, tarps, and individually packaged water bottles. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate electronics or phones email info@hamsmart.ca. To donate beverages email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 900 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. The second rest and hygiene centre was opened by New Vision United Church, with the support of volunteers. We continue to advocate for a moratorium on the removal of encampments during the pandemic, until permanent housing solutions that meet people’s needs are found. People are also telling us they continue to urgently need access to showers, and to more washrooms.

Last week we reported that we were seeing what we think is a spike in overdoses, owing in part to a shortage of naloxone in people’s hands. We want to thank Hauser’s, Gibson’s, and Marchese Healthcare pharmacies for coming forward to donate Naloxone to our street outreach team, who have been getting it into people’s hands.  We know that it is those of us with lived experience who do the most reversing of overdoses and that naloxone in people’s hands is life saving.

Dr Tim O’Shea is leading a research project that involves voluntary surveillance swabbing for COVID-19 of any shelter staff or client. This project involves offering a COVID-19 swab to everyone in a given shelter once weekly, so that pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic cases can be picked up early. Swabs have a quick turn around, with reports on the same day, allowing for timely action on results. So far, all of the surveillance swabs have come back negative (although there have been a few positive cases in the Hamilton shelter system to date, outside of this research project).

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. This past Friday was May 1, otherwise known as May Day or International Workers Day. It has been striking to see who is essential during this pandemic – the truck drivers, the personal support workers, the grocery store workers, the food service workers, the farm workers, and many many more. And yet, PSWs are on part-time contracts so that employers don’t have to pay benefits despite chronic understaffing in long term care and home care; people are being forced back to work at a meat packing plant home to one of the largest outbreaks in North America;  and the cramped living conditions put migrant farm workers at high risk of acquiring COVID-19 while the precarity of their employment prevents many from speaking out about concerns. We hope that the pandemic illuminates who is truly essential to our economy and our lives, and that labour laws and minimum wage will be permanently changed to reflect this truth. To learn more about labour organizing in Ontario, visit https://www.15andfairness.org/.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE WATER An essential item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they stop the ticketing of people who are homeless and place a moratorium on the removal of encampments  and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing them with adequate shelter, food, and services.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

April 20: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 6


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 6

April 27, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

Since the last newsletter, we marked one month of local COVID-19 pandemic precautions and HAMSMaRT-Keeping Six joint outreach and response. We are heartened to see this community grow as we stand with our neighbours to support the dignity of every person in Hamilton. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and staffing the rest and hygiene at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church downtown. We are looking for someone to go shopping for essential supplies this week (using generously donated funds). We will be sending out the May volunteer schedule this week to everyone who has signed up to volunteer. If you can do the shopping this week, email volunteer@keepingsix.org. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for the May schedule, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of cell phones, tablets, tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, tarps, and individually packaged water bottles or soft drinks or juice. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate electronics or phones email info@hamsmart.ca. To donate beverages email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 700 lunches distributed along with over 700 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. We are applying for some funding from Hamilton Community Foundation and the City of Hamilton to expand our outreach to deliver 900 lunches plus other essential supplies per week – fingers crossed! We are starting to hear more about changes to the drug supply in terms of decreased availability, increased cost, and increased toxicity; and both hearing and seeing less availability of naloxone. We have confirmed the heartbreaking news that there have been overdose deaths in Hamilton in the last week where naloxone was not available. Making naloxone more available will be a focus of our efforts in the next few weeks. We are pleased to be working with a new community partner, New Vision United Church, to support them in opening a second resting and hygiene centre.

We are happy to be partnering with researchers from the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University on an arts-based research project looking at how COVID-19 and pandemic precautions have impacted people who are homeless and people who use drugs. We know that there will be a ton of medical evidence generated on COVID-19 with respect to clinical care and public health. We want to ensure that the social impact of the pandemic is also captured. We are planning for an art show (when physical distancing measures are lifted) at the end of the project, and will share details with everyone when that happens. We are so pleased with this partnership, which expands on our existing arts programming and will give us the opportunity to share the artistry and creativity of our community with a wider audience.

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. You may have heard people talk about the “public health crisis within a public health crisis” referring to the COVID-19 pandemic intersecting with the pre-existing opioid overdose death crisis. This is at the heart of our response to COVID-19. Over 14000 people have died of an opioid-related overdose in Canada since January 2016.  Given the overdose deaths we have become aware of this week, we wanted to highlight this issue. Here is what we are hearing on outreach and from our patients: the border shutdowns and physical distancing measures mean the drug supply is becoming more unreliable, harder to obtain, and more expensive; naloxone is harder to obtain and people are worried about contracting COVID-19 if they respond to an overdose; services, including the consumption and treatment site, can see fewer people at a time; some services are shut down altogether; there are fewer ways to make money as bottle return locations and hours are more limited and there are fewer people out in public; when people die of overdose or other poverty-related harms, we cannot come together to mourn and grieve like we used to; there are fewer people in public so the attention of police is firmly trained on those still in public with nowhere else to go; people who have to go to the pharmacy to get daily carries of opioid agonist treatment worry about increased exposure to COVID-19; people who use street drugs may have other underlying health conditions that make them more at risk for severe COVID-19 illness; the list goes on. We are heartened by the response of Dr Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, and by the Risk Mitigation in the Context of Dual Public Health Emergencies guidance from the BC Centre on Substance Use, endorsed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and the BC Ministry of Health. We encourage the many health workers who receive this newsletter to consider what actions we should be taking collectively and as individual prescribers to address these intersecting crises here in Ontario. To learn more, we encourage you to read this piece in the BC Medical Journal by Guy Felicella and Dr Rupi Brar, MD, CCFP(AM), and or this piece by Dr Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the US.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org.

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE JUICE BOXES OR CANS OF POP These are a highly requested item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they stop the ticketing of people who are homeless and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing them with adequate shelter, food, and services.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

April 20: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 5


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 5

April 20, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

Since the last newsletter, we marked one month of local COVID-19 pandemic precautions and HAMSMaRT-Keeping Six joint outreach and response. We are heartened to see this community grow as we stand with our neighbours to support the dignity of every person in Hamilton. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and staffing the rest and hygiene at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church downtown. We are looking for someone to go shopping for essential supplies this week (using generously donated funds). We will be sending out the May volunteer schedule this week to everyone who has signed up to volunteer. If you can do the shopping this week, email volunteer@keepingsix.org. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for the May schedule, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of cell phones, tablets, tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, tarps, and individually packaged water bottles or soft drinks or juice. Are you a sewer? Warm fleece blankets would be especially helpful! To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate electronics or phones email info@hamsmart.ca. To donate beverages email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 600 lunches distributed along with over 600 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. The feedback we are hearing from the street remains largely unchanged, people need places to be, to wash their hands, to shower, do laundry.  Despite the hardship, people are in generally good spirits and are always kind and receptive to our outreach wagoneers. The resting and hygiene centre at St Patrick’s Church is a wonderful success after its second week of being open. Discussions are underway with other community partners to open more.

We have learned that police are planning to force people to move their small encampment off of  the property at Sir John A MacDonald school. We are reassured to know that Mental Health and Street Outreach is working closely with people to ensure that anyone who needs or wants  a place to stay has access to one. We are asking that this and all encampments in the city be left alone. Our message remains the same – people need places to live and exist and practice physical distancing. Ticketing and policing people is not an effective public health strategy, and should be stopped. If you or someone you know has been ticketed by the police or by law for not being able to physically distance please email us at info@keepingsix.org or fill out this online form https://forms.gle/V1JfxA5bjZMZzHVD7 to notify Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. We are pleased to be issuing a press release this afternoon in partnership with the HCLC giving a legal and clinical opinion that people living in the same shelter are living in the same household and thus should not be ticketed for violation of physical distancing laws. Read and share!

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. It is a unique moment in history to watch the same problem unfold across the globe, and see how communities respond to the COVID-19 threat.  As we rage and organize for the resolution of inequities here in Hamilton, we must make the connection to the ways in which global inequities and power over others is causing immense harm around the world. The US trade blockade prevents essential COVID-19 testing supplies from reaching Cuba, and US sanctions are hindering the public health response in places like Iran and North Korea. We can read about what life during COVID-19 is like in Palestine, where the response is hampered by restricted access to basic medical resources from long before the pandemic. Here in Canada, the federal government’s inaction on COVID-19 in prisons has allowed an outbreak to flourish in Mission Institution and is part of Canada’s ongoing legacy of violence against First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. At the same time, the response from the people is inspiring! We are witnessing Indigenous people take action to protect the health of their own peoples, like the Zapatistas in autonomous Chiapas using their existing health and political infrastructure to protect their communities during COVID-19, and Six Nations of the Grand River taking care of their elders and community. We see Cuba sending doctors to Italy to assist with the COVID-19 response. This is just to name a few of the responses around the world founded in love for one another and the collective good. K6 and HAMSMaRT draw inspiration and hope from these and other efforts to fight this pandemic and its unjust distribution of consequences.  We encourage you to do the same! Please take heart and spend some time this week learning more about the global COVID-19 situation, and consider how we can act in solidarity with and learn from oppressed peoples organizing around the world.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, bake sweet treats, go on outreach, shop for supplies, or help staff rest and hygiene stations, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE LIKE-NEW/EXCELLENT CONDITION TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, FLEECE BLANKETS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org. Fleece blankets are a great project for sewers!

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE JUICE BOXES OR CANS OF POP These are a highly requested item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they stop the ticketing of people who are homeless and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing them with adequate shelter, food, and services.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

April 13: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 4


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 4

April 13, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

Seeing the buds on trees and the croci blooming has lifted our spirits this week. There are so many reminders around us of spring and new life and the beauty of the natural world. Our week was full of meeting people, advocating, and planning for the road ahead. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We have almost entirely filled our volunteer schedule for the month of April. Some of our volunteers have also been deployed to staff the new rest and hygiene at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church downtown. We are still looking for people to buy and decorate brown paper bags, and the volunteer schedule sign up for May will come out next week. If you want to join the volunteer crew, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of cell phones, tablets, laptops, tents, sleeping bags, tarps, and individually packaged water bottles or soft drinks or juice. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate electronics or phones email info@hamsmart.ca. To donate beverages email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 600 lunches distributed along with over 600 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. People are glad the weather is warming up, but remain worried about getting tickets or being kicked off the sites where they are camping out. We ask everyone to keep up the pressure on police and public officials not to ticket people who are homeless – consider writing your city councillor or calling Hamilton Police Services to share your concerns. In addition, if you or someone you know has been ticketed by the police or by law for not being able to physically distance please email us at info@keepingsix.org.

We are grateful to St. Patrick’s for showing community leadership and opening up the first rest and hygiene station downtown. If you are connected to other faith groups or community spaces that could do the same thing, please encourage them to consider taking action to serve our neighbours. We are happy to consult with new groups and share lessons learned, provide infection control advice, and recruit volunteers. For more information on what is involved in setting up a rest and hygiene centre, contact info@hamsmart.ca.

The City of Hamilton opened an overflow men’s shelter at Copps Coliseum (aka First Ontario Centre) Saturday night. We commend the hard work that it took to make this happen, and are glad to see steps being taken to facilitate physical distancing for people who are homeless. We continue to believe that the best approach for reducing infection transmission and promoting dignity is to provide people with individual rooms (e.g. hotels, motels, or student residences) while working towards permanent housing. For inspiration we can look to Project Roomkey in California, and the collective demands for housing from Super InTent Society in Victoria, BC.

Keeping Six collaborated with health workers and people who use drugs to create a harm reduction handout on bystander response to opioid overdose during COVID-19. You can download a full page flyer and a postcard-size version. Please print, post, share, tweet, and get the word out! If you have access to printing large quantities of black and white flyers, please email us info@hamsmart.ca – we would love to be able to give these out on outreach.

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. We were angry to hear Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr David Williams, state that Ontario will not be collecting data on race or other socio-demographic variables in COVID-19 testing, diagnosis, or mortality because in his words “All groups of people are equally important to us.” This perfectly illustrates the difference between equal (the same care for everyone, regardless of circumstance or need) and equity (everyone gets the care they need). We know that racism and colonization and other social determinants affect who gets sick, how sick they get, and what kind of care they receive. We have signed on to the Alliance for Healthier Communities open letter calling on the Government of Ontario to collect this data so that health inequities can be identified and addressed.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

VOLUNTEER to decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, or to help staff the rest and hygiene station, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE BRAND NEW TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org.

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS as we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE JUICE BOXES OR CANS OF POP These are a highly requested item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepingsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they stop the ticketing of people who are homeless and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing them with adequate shelter, food, and services.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

April 6: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 3


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 3

April 6, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

It was so nice to see the sun come out this weekend! We’ve had a full week of advocating, organizing, baking, decorating, outreach, a newspaper ad, and more. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We are so proud to have an ad in Saturday’s Hamilton Spectator. We wanted to show our appreciation for shelter workers, essential workers, healthcare workers, and especially for people who use drugs and people who are homeless. We invite you to print off the ad from our website here: https://keepingsix.org/posters/, decorate, and hang in your window. You can join the conversation on social media by sharing all the ways that #HamiltonStandsTogether.

We have almost entirely filled our volunteer schedule for the month of April. We are still looking for one outreach volunteer for the week of April 13, and people to buy and decorate brown paper bags all month. If you want to join the volunteer crew, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We have received an increasing number of requests for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags from people who are homeless. The homelessness crisis in Canada started long before this pandemic, and we as a society have not provided adequate housing for everyone. We want to be clear that we believe the city should immediately provide safe, adequate, independent housing for every person who wants or needs it during the pandemic. However this collective responsibility has not been met, and we respect the autonomy of people to decide how best to meet their own needs. We are starting to collect and distribute *brand new* 1 to 5 person tents, sleeping bags, and tarps. To donate, email tents@keepingsix.org.

We also need electronics, in particular flip phones so that people can stay in touch with family, friends, access services, and connect to telemedicine. To donate old phones, email info@hamsmart.ca and we can arrange to pick them up.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 450 lunches distributed along with over 600 home baked goods, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. Sketchbooks were a huge hit, and we’re excited to see the art that people share with us. We saw a lot of the same folks on outreach each time, and it was nice to start building relationships with people. People are hungry, there are still some meal programs but not as many as before COVID-19. People are worried about themselves, their loved ones, and the community. The biggest problem is that there is still nowhere to be – despite weeks of pandemic planning and response. In good news, Councillor Nann’s office wrote to us that 10 porta-potties and 5 hand washing stations are now operational downtown. And we are especially grateful to Father Tony O’Dell and the parish at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, who are just about to launch a 7 days a week rest and hygiene station at their church. We will be recruiting volunteers to staff these rest and hygiene stations – again, if you want to volunteer, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are concerned about increased policing due to COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on people who are homeless. New rules under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) prohibit groups of more than 5 from gathering, require people charged under EMCPA to identify themselves, and impose a $750 fine or more for failure to comply with any emergency order. We cannot share details out of respect for people’s privacy, but can confirm at least two $750 fines have been handed out to people who are homeless in Hamilton. As we await further access to rest and hygiene stations, we implore the city and the province to stop criminalizing people who are homeless and instead do absolutely everything in their power to make it possible for people for people to participate in physical distancing with dignity. If you or someone you know receives a ticket, please be in touch with us at info@keepingsix.org.  We are working with community partners for a resolution.

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. A mere 39 days ago, HAMSMaRT hosted a film screening and discussion in relation to another emergency – the construction of pipelines without consent on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, under the approval and enforcement of the settler Canadian state. For many of us it seems like a lifetime ago. But as we think about how homelessness makes people and communities vulnerable to COVID-19, we can consider the definition of Indigenous homelessness in Canada. One dimension of this definition is contemporary geographic separation – an Indigenous individual or community’s separation from Indigenous lands after colonial control. Respecting the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en peoples and the jurisdiction of the hereditary chiefs over unceded territory is fundamental to addressing the root cause of homelessness amongst Indigenous people – colonization. Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on Wet’suwet’en, particularly the risk of COVID-19 outbreak due to ongoing Coastal Gas Link activity on Wet’suwet’en territory.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

VOLUNTEER to do outreach or decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, or to help staff the rest and hygiene station, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE BRAND NEW TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org.

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE JUICE BOXES OR CANS OF POP These are a highly requested item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

March 30: K6 and HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 2


K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 2

March 30, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

We hope people have made the best of this rainy weekend, and are finding ways to create joy in uncertain times. And if you haven’t – that’s ok too. Many of us are just trying to keep our heads above water. We have had a busy week! This is a LONG email, but if you just read the bolded sentences, you’ll get the main points.

We have opened up our schedule for new volunteers to join our efforts on outreach, bake sweet treats for bagged lunches being given out on outreach, and decorate the brown paper bags that lunches go in (GREAT family activity). If you want to join the volunteer crew, email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Isolation sites run by the City of Hamilton with support from HAMSMaRT are ready to go if and when someone who is homeless tests positive for COVID-19. We had an overwhelming response from the medical community to volunteer for these. If you have volunteered and not heard anything, you are on an email list to contact when additional help is needed.

We put out a press release calling for urgent action from the City of Hamilton to care for people who are homeless and people who use drugs in COVID-19 by procuring hotel rooms for physical distancing, opening more indoor spaces for rest and hygiene, ensuring continued access to substances of dependence, stopping the policing of people who are homeless, and involving people with lived experience at decision making tables. The City responded and has stated they are working on hotel rooms, increased indoor spaces, and access to substances of dependence for people who are physically distancing or isolating. They have also invited Keeping Six members who use drugs to be part of the harm reduction planning tables. We will continue to keep pressure on the city to ensure they follow through on these promises.

We are grateful to have received a $10000 grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation as part of their Pandemic Response Fund. The funds will be used to directly support the people who need it most by providing gift cards and essential items to people who are unhoused or precariously housed. We will also use some of the funds to ensure that our organizing work can continue. As a group that consists of people with lived experience and on fixed incomes, we need to make sure we can all stay connected by providing internet and phones to those who don’t have them. This allows for the important physical distancing and the continued prioritizing of the leadership of people with lived experience.

We watched BC with great interest as they unveiled Safe Supply guidelines for prescribers as part of their response to the harms of the toxic illicit drug supply. Safe supply has been noted as particularly important in COVID-19 because of decreasing availability of street supply, lack of access to income generating activities (e.g. panhandling, bottle return, sex work), and need to provide options that can help facilitate physical distancing. The guidelines include explicit legal approval from the provincial government to prescribe safe supply, guidance on safe supply of opioids, benzodiazepines, and stimulants, and operation of a telephone consult service through the Vancouver Coastal Health Overdose Outreach Team for prescribers and pharmacists.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 600 lunches distributed. We continue to hear very similar themes on outreach around a lack of food service and that folks have nowhere to be, to distance, and to practice good hand washing, and will move to once weekly summaries. The new themes we are hearing are that people will not use isolation centres or physical distancing facilities if they cannot continue to use drugs and alcohol, and that people are being released from the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre aka the Barton jail with no plan for housing or medical care. We unequivocally support urgent mass release of people in prison to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prison, and also call for appropriate housing and medical support on release. To learn more about this, check out this article in The Halifax Examiner by poet and activist El Jones “Clearing Out the Jails”. And starting this coming week, we will have an on-call physician available for telemedicine during outreach.

Our arts coordinator extraordinaire, Kelly Wolf, has pushed us to think beyond meeting basic needs of food and shelter at this tumultuous time and asks how can we engage people creatively?  As an organization that defends the humanity of PWUD we know that the desire to create and share stories is a very powerful creative outlet. The COVID-19 crisis shuttered our newly established art drop in and we are now taking that to the streets too!  Starting this week, we will be adding arts outreach to our wagons: sketchbooks, pens and pencils to be distributed to any who would like. We will engage with the people we meet on the street as fellow humans, with their own stories, dreams and desires, beyond how they are perceived at a first glance.  This project has the potential to document the COVID-19 crisis from a very particular point of view. If participants are interested, their contributions – stories or artwork – may form some of the content of our next quarterly zine – scheduled to print at the beginning of June. We are floating the title ‘Love in the Time of COVID-19’. We expect this edition will be quite an interesting one!

We will end each newsletter with a reflection on the knowledge that health is political and responses to pandemics are political. This week we are thinking about how gender based violence is shaped by the pandemic. One example is how people may be forced to physically distance themselves at home with other people who abuse them, causing a documented increase in violence against children and women. And gender based violence intersects with issues of poverty, homelessness, colonization, racism, and more. This highlights why it is important before and during times of crisis to understand the power structures that perpetuate harm, and act to build a world where people are free from violence and can determine health on their own terms.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

VOLUNTEER to do outreach, bake sweet treats, or decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches by emailing volunteer@keepingsix.org.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE ITEMS warm hats, warm wool socks, warm mitts, juice boxes, pop, and/or groceries for baking, as requested by our bakers. If you can provide these, email us volunteer@keepingsix.org and let us know, we need you!

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet or smartphone, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

March 24: K6 and HAMSMaRT call on the City of Hamilton to Immediately Open More Shelter Space in Hotels and Hygiene and Rest Centres for the Homeless Community.


K6 and HAMSMaRT call on the City of Hamilton to Immediately Open More Shelter Space in Hotels and Hygiene and Rest Centres for the Homeless Community.

March 24, 2020

Keeping Six – Hamilton Harm Reduction Action League and the Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team are calling for the opening up of urgently needed hygiene and resting centres as well as more shelter space in hotels for the homeless community in Hamilton. This is a paramount and crucial piece in the efforts we are all taking on as a society to reduce the spread of COVID 19. It is also vital to ensure access to basic human needs during this crisis. We demand that the City of Hamilton:

  1. Immediately procure hotel rooms so that people who are in shelters or unhoused can practice physical distancing and PREVENT the spread of COVID-19
  2. Immediately open large indoor public spaces to allow for people to rest, eat, and practice hygiene while maintaining appropriate physical distancing
  3. Ensure people are able to continue using the substances they depend on no matter what setting they are in, in keeping with the principles and practice of harm reduction
  4. Do not police people for being homeless, including but not limited to not issuing tickets for loitering, and not enforcing no camping bylaws
  5. Guarantee people with lived experience of homelessness and/or drug use are at all decision making tables moving forward with respect to the City of Hamilton COVID-19 response as it affects people who are homeless and/or who use drugs

Last week in the wake of many services across the city shuttering or reducing their services to prevent the spread of COVID 19, K6 took to the streets to feed and connect with our friends and loved ones left behind by these sweeping public health measures. We heard over and over again that many of the services people rely upon have been shut down, people have nowhere to go to get warm, to eat, to use the washroom, or wash their hands. People need food and warmth and shelter. People are very worried about being isolated or quarantined and as a result being forced into withdrawal from opioids or alcohol. All of what we are hearing is of concern from a humanitarian standpoint, but also from an infection control perspective. People need space to spread out and stave off the spread of COVID 19 now! Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced funding for municipalities to increase service to vulnerable people. In response to the calls of homeless people and their advocates, municipalities across the country and the world are opening up space in hotels. We think that strategy should and can be adopted here in Hamilton.

As health care providers who have participated in the COVID 19 planning, we know that everyone has been working tirelessly, under very short time lines, but this cannot wait any longer. If conditions for people to spread out are not created now, we fear that COVID 19 will spread like wildfire in the homeless population if and when it takes hold, As people who live and love people living on the street, we know this will have a devastating impact on those of us who already suffer from the ill effects of life on the street and will quickly overwhelm the healthcare system.

The baseline for the health of our community is the health of the poorest and the most marginalized. None of us can truly be healthy if we are not all afforded the opportunity to be healthy. As steeper measures are implemented to encourage and enforce physical distancing, we see an urgent need to provide the opportunity for people who can’t implement these measures to not be criminalized. We are calling on officials to do everything in their power to prevent this issue from becoming one of law and order. This means making it possible for people to distance and isolate.

Finally, we want to send an enormous shout out and thank you to all those who are on the front lines, health and social service and shelter workers. Also importantly grocery, retail and food service workers, sanitation and cleaning workers who are are being revealed as the backbone of the society that they have always been. We see you and we thank you!

Keeping Six- Hamilton Harm Reduction Action League is a community-based organization that defends the rights, dignity and humanity of people who use drugs. It was formed in response to the ravages of the opioid crisis, by people who use drugs and those who love and care for them, for purposes of mutual protection and cooperation.

Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team is an outreach service of general internal medicine and infectious diseases physicians, family physicians, registered nurses, midwifery and outreach workers whose goal is to provide excellence in clinical care to individuals who have difficulty accessing care in the traditional medical system.

For media inquiries, please contact Lisa Nussey info@keepingsix.org or 905-966-0242.

March 23: K6 & HAMSMaRT Newsletter no. 1


Monday Update

March 23, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

 

Hello! What a wild week it has been in the world, and right here in Hamilton. We hope you are all staying well, and finding ways to socially connect while physically distancing. Thanks to everyone for their support as we get our COVID-19 response up and running.

 

We have decided to do a weekly newsletter to keep people informed about what is happening, and opportunities to support this work. We have realized over the last week that we are not responding for a few weeks, but rather for a few months to a year. So, bear with us as we get organized to do this work for the long haul. We can’t wait to draw on all of you who have offered to volunteer, and details about how to get involved will be coming in about a week.

 

The core organizing group met yesterday, and based on our capacity and what we are hearing from people on the street, we will be trying to do outreach three times per week. This will be Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons. This week it will be core organizers doing outreach, and we will be asking for new volunteers to help out starting in one week. We are finalizing our social distancing protocols to try and keep street outreach as safe as possible for everyone involved.

 

For medical personnel who have offered to volunteer at the isolation sites, we have passed along your contact information to the City of Hamilton who is coordinating the sites. We will keep you posted if we have any new information about these.

 

Thanks to Mary, who is producing infographics to share what we are hearing on outreach. The first few are attached to this email, and we will share them each week. You can also find them on our twitter accounts @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix. The key themes we are hearing are that many services have shut down; people have nowhere to go especially during the day to get warm, use the washroom, or wash their hands; people need food and warmth and shelter; and people are very worried about being isolated or quarantined and as a result being forced into withdrawal from opioids or alcohol.

 

Finally, a note for us all to consider. Health is political. Responses to pandemics are political. As we see who is cared for and who is left behind during this crisis, we know this is a direct result of who has power and resources and who does not. We provide direct support to people who are homeless and who use drugs as an act of solidarity with our communities. We ask government leaders to listen to and act on the advice of people who are most affected, who are homeless, who use drugs. This is part of our work towards a more just world where everyone has access to the relationships, resources, and power they need to determine their own health and the health of their communities.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

 

DONATE (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/

 

VOLUNTEER Do you have a front porch/outdoor drop off zone and storage space to accept donations of warm hats, mitts, and socks? If so, email us volunteer@keepingsix.org and let us know, we need you!

 

DONATE warm hats, warm wool socks, warm mitts (stay tuned for details on where to donate once we have procured a place)

 

VOLUNTEER Are you asymptomatic, with limited exposure to potential COVID-19 cases, and baking skills? We are looking for a few people to donate their time and skill to make home baked goods for bagged lunches. If this is you, email us volunteer@keepingsix.org and let us know, we need you!

 

DONATE juice boxes, pop, and/or groceries for baking, as requested by our bakers. If you can provide these, email us volunteer@keepingsix.org and let us know, we need you!

 

DONATE wagons for outreach. We need 3 more large folding canvas wagons. If you are willing to temporarily lend yours or know someone who would email volunteer@keepingsix.org so we can coordinate drop off.

 

AMPLIFY our messages on twitter @HAMSMaRTeam and @keepingsix and by forwarding this email, so that decision makers LISTEN to people who are homeless and/or who use drugs about what they need right now

 

In solidarity,

 

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

March 19: A Call to Action and a Thank You to Our Extraordinary Supporters


A Call to Action and a Thank You to Our Extraordinary Supporters

March 19, 2020

Dear Community Members, Friends, and Allies:

 

Our first pandemic outreach session on Tuesday of this week was both successful and revealing. Our community members are generally aware of the recommendations for social distancing and increased hand washing, but they have no way to implement these measures. We know that city and health officials are working around the clock to prevent what now seems like the inevitability of community transmission. Keeping Six is calling on those with the ability to open more spaces for people unable to socially distance to be creative and decisive.

We need these measures now; we are calling people to act.
The health of our entire city depends on it.

 

As we traverse this unknown path together, we wanted to take a moment to offer our heartfelt thanks to the truly extraordinary people who have been stepping up in this unprecedented time.

 

We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support we have received over the last 48 hours. So many of you have been asking how you can help, and without you, there is no way we could effectively serve our friends and family who are counting on us to do what is right.

 

We know you are anxious to get started. We are a small organization and are working diligently to figure out how to handle the proportions of this crisis and the overwhelming love and offers of support that keep coming in. If you have emailed volunteer@keepingsix.org to get involved, we will be in touch very soon. In the meantime, take care of one another and be kind to those of us who are on the street with no where to be when everything is shut down.

 

Follow us on Twitter or watch this site for updates. We will be posting the information we gather from the community on how these pandemic measures are impacting those who are simultaneously some of the most resilient and vulnerable in our City here after each outreach session. This will inform our own organizing and, we hope, those in positions of power tasked with serving our community and implementing measures to flatten the curve.

 

While we live in uncertain times, we are certain that if we continue to be there for one another, we will meet the challenges ahead with compassion, focus, and courage.

 

In love and solidarity,

 

Keeping Six

March 16: A Message from K6


A Message from Keeping Six

March 16, 2020

Dear Community Members:

 

The Keeping Six Drop-In is the heartbeat of our organization. Every Tuesday – for over a year – we have looked forward to gathering, as a community and family, to support each other and share our vision for a more just future. However, as the world grapples with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and social spaces close their doors in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, we must suspend the Drop-In until at least April 6, 2020.

 

We are currently formulating a plan to continue meeting the needs of those of us who rely on the Drop-In. In these ever changing conditions, we are going to continue doing what we do best, which is making people feel safe, supported, connected, and loved. To that end,

this Tuesday March 17, from 3 to 5pm, we will dispatch a street outreach team in the downtown core to distribute a bagged lunch (we know, it’s not our standard three course hot meal, but it’s something!) and harm reduction supplies.
We will also be armed with paper and pen to collect information from the community on how these pandemic measures are impacting our people, and to sort out what is needed most so that we can organize accordingly.

 

It has already become clear to us that the efforts to slow the spread of the virus will disproportionately impact the people we love and care for: people who do not have access to the infrastructure needed to put protective measures into place, and people for whom the shuttering of all drop-in programs and public and communal spaces will mean undue and harmful deprivation. We have been heartened by those who have responded with kindness and collective action to meet the needs of those who are not able to meet them on their own. Facebook groups like Care Mongering Hamilton and impromptu childcare and neighborhood care networks are being pulled together. This is the spirit and approach that is needed from official responses to this pandemic.

 

Hamilton Drs. Caverhill and Dosani have called on local officials to put measures into place to protect homeless and marginalized people, and Toronto street outreach nurse, Cathy Crowe, has compiled a justice- and science-driven list of recommendations which include increasing the capacity of the shelter system and creating conditions to reduce the spread of the virus. As a community based organization led by people with lived experience of homelessness and drug use, we would add one more recommendation to these wise demands: include us in these discussions and plans; we know how and what will work in very tangible ways. Please don’t shut us out.

 

As it has always been, defending the rights, dignity, and humanity of people who use drugs remains the central focus of our organization.Though these are uncertain times, uncertain times joined us together, and why we stand ready to support our community as it navigates the challenges ahead.

 

In love and solidarity,

 

Keeping Six

COVID-19-Related Resources for People Who Use Drugs

We are now grappling with two concurrent crises: the opioid overdose crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic. To support each other as we navigate these uncharted waters, we have prepared a handout that addresses the risks of responding to an opioid overdose during the pandemic, and provides guidance on how to respond to one in a way that protects you and the people you care about.

K6 COVID-19 overdose handout (8.5″ x 11″)

K6 COVID-19 overdose postcard (4.25″ x 5.5″)


For those of us who use, during this time of heightened precautions, please consider the tips below, adapted from the Harm Reduction Coalition’s guide to safer drug use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minimize the need to share your supplies

  • Don’t share e-cigs/cigarettes, pipes, bongs or joints, or nasal tubes such as straws. If you have to share, practice harm reduction with your supplies (wipe down the mouthpieces with an alcohol swab before sharing or use separate mouthpieces). Put used smoking, snorting, and injecting equipment in a sharps container so people know they are used.

Minimize contact

  • If you are having sex or doing sex work, COVID-19 can be transmitted by close contact like coughing, kissing, or direct contact with bodily fluids. Try to minimize close contact and ensure condom use.

Prepare your drugs yourself

  • Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water and prepare your own drugs. Keep your surfaces clean and wipe them down before and after use, with microbial wipes, alcohol (at least 70%), or bleach. If you can’t prepare your own drugs, stay with the person who is. Get them to wash their hands thoroughly, and to clean up before and after.

Plan and prepare for overdose

  • Emergency services might be stretched in a COVID-19 outbreak, and slow to respond to 911 calls. Load up on naloxone. If you are alone, experiment with using less to lower your risk of OD, and go slowly. If you are using with others, make an OD plan with them and stagger use if possible. Store a breathing mask for use in case rescue breathing is needed.

Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT are dispatching street outreach teams in Hamilton’s downtown core to distribute bagged lunches, harm reduction supplies, and collect information from the community on how it is being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures being taken to slow its spread. This information will guide our organizing efforts. Summaries of data collected during outreach sessions will be shared in this space, revealing some of the immediate and upfront concerns from the streets.

March 17

March 17 Outreach Survey Results

March 19

March 19 Outreach Survey Results

March 21

March 21 Outreach Survey Results

March 23 - 29

Outreach Survey Results for March 23-29