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Encampment Advocacy

//Timeline of Key Events_

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Keeping Six, in partnership with HAMSMaRT, have relentlessly and cooperatively engaged with City leadership, social service agencies, front line workers, and encampment residents themselves to not only challenge the established approach to dismantling encampments, but also work towards a public health and human rights-based strategy. Follow the timeline below for highlights of key events and efforts on this pressing matter.

March 17
April 6
April 18
April 19
April 20
April 21
April 22
April 25
April 27
April 29
May 1
May 6
May 10
June 4
June 11
June 26
June 30
July 7
July 9
July 10
July 13
July 17
July 22
July 28
July 29
July 30
August 3
August 7
August 9
August 8-10
August 11
August 14
August 21
August 31
September 30
October 7
October 8
October 14 – 15
October 21
October 23

March 17

  • K6 and HAMSMaRT shift service provision from weekly drop-in to laugh thrice-weekly outreach sessions. This affords us the opportunity to connect directly with folks living rough.

Related Media

‘Sleepless nights’: A team of workers will hit Hamilton streets to help the homeless

April 6

  • In response to the high volume of requests from people seen on outreach, K6 and HAMSMaRT begin collecting tents, tarps, and sleeping bags to distribute to folks sleeping rough. The announcement is made through our weekly newsletter.

Related Media

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 3 (April 6, 2020)

April 18

  • K6 is informed on outreach that residents at the long-standing encampment at Sir John A MacDonald School were given notice to move within a week.

April 19

  • K6 requests that report back from outreach be a standing item on weekly homeless sector COVID-19 management meetings.

April 20

  • HCLC/HAMSMaRT/K6 release a joint statement calling on City of Hamilton and Hamilton Police Service to immediately stop ticketing individuals who are homeless and living in the same shelter under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (“EMCPA”), and City of Hamilton By-Law 20-056.

Related Media

59 charges laid for COVID-19 offences in Hamilton, including 7 against businesses

April 21

  • HAMSMaRT and K6 join meeting convened around encampment management by the City of Hamilton.

April 22

  • Mental Health and Street Outreach (MHSO) and Hamilton Police Service and Paramedic Social Navigator Program (SNP) have and continue to vigorously engage encampment residents in accessing shelter. Many access shelters and hotels; many were back at encampment within days, for various reasons.

April 25

  • SJAM cleared without incident with support of MHSO and SNP. K6/HAMSMaRT supports encampment residents unable to access shelter, housing or hotel to move after the city fails to arrange transportation as agreed upon. Several residents move to Jackie Washington under advisement that the City could better support them on municipal property.

Related Media

Homeless tent encampment cleared from downtown Hamilton school property

April 27

  • Residents at Jackie Washington given eviction notice; City Homeless Sector staff intervene to extend deadline.

Related Media

Homeless campers told to leave Hamilton park days after being forced off school property

April 29

  • Email from HAMSMaRT and K6 requesting to sit down with Jason Farr who responds he will speak to staff and get back to us.

May 1

  • K6 and HAMSMaRT convene “house meeting” at Jackie Washington to better understand the needs of encampment residents and implications of being displaced. This info is conveyed to the city staff directly.
  • K6 offers to send peers to York and Bay to engage in community maintenance of portopoties, which have been damaged. No response to K6 offer, which is conditional on some remuneration for peer work.

May 6

  • Jackie Washington encampment residents cleared. People’s belongings are destroyed and people lost to health and social service support. Two people and their dogs housed before the park was cleared. One person moves two blocks away to Ferrie St encampment.

Related Media

City of Hamilton urged not to clear homeless encampments during COVID-19 pandemic

May 10

  • Email to Jason Farr, in follow up to April 29 request for meeting; no response. Throughout the entire encampment debate, Jason Farr has never spoken directly to K6 or HAMSMaRT.

June 4

  • City staff have repeatedly conveyed that they are unwilling and unable to change approach to clearing encampments to align with Public Health and Human Rights best practice. Legal team sends letter to City of Hamilton requesting negotiated solution, with the intention to litigate failing that. The letter also requests a meeting between parties within a week.

June 11

June 26

  • HAMSMaRT, K6, and legal team sit down with City Solicitor, General Manager of Healthy and Safe Communities and the Director of Housing Services for a productive conversation about solutions to encampments in Hamilton. Our team is encouraged to take our request for change in approach to encampments to council. Next opportunity will be the Emergency and Community Service meeting on July 13.

June 30

  • In response to growing need, K6 launches Tent Drive.

July 7

  • HAMSMaRT, K6, and legal team sit down with the City Solicitor, General Manager of Healthy and Safe Communities and the Director of Housing Services for a productive follow-up conversation about solutions to encampments in Hamilton.

July 9

  • Follow up correspondence with City staff to better understand Encampment Task Force. One page description of task force received. No response to request for more fulsome publicly available documentation about the current approach to encampments and the current steps taken to assess the level of risk and determine the steps that might need to be taken described in the one-pager.

July 10

  • Notice of imminent “clean up” of York and Bay encampment. City staff request the support of K6 on site to support. With less than a day’s notice, K6 and HAMSMaRT and other community organizations send support teams to help residents with larger items and the site is deemed clean enough by City and agency staff to have “heavy machinery” called off.

July 13

  • Written delegations to Emergency and Community Services by Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six. Councilor Nann moves that City encampment working group include an analysis of UN Rapporteur on the Right to Housing’s Human Rights-based approach: A National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada. The motion is carried with Councillor Whitehead voting against understanding a human rights-based approach. Councilor Clark moves that the City solicitor report back to the ECS on the implications of the legal precedent from BC.

Related Media

Homelessness: Hamilton advocates urge city to let encampments be

Hamilton needs to stop shutting down homeless encampments say advocates

Hamilton to examine homeless encampment issue, but seems no closer to allowing them

July 17

  • Second “clean up” of York and Bay encampment ordered. This time, K6 and HAMSMaRT and other community members were given less than an hour notice. Supporters sent and “clean up” successful.

Related Media

Homeless residents on edge as Hamilton clears debris from downtown tent encampment

July 22

  • K6 convenes first front line encampment support service coordination meeting with several City and social service agencies and workers. This group has met weekly since then.

July 28

  • Call from the Director of Housing Services notifying that encampments at York and Bay and Ferguson would be cleared on Friday, July 31. Director said every effort would be made to provide people with alternatives, but confirmed that those who could not be accommodated would be forced to move on.

July 29

  • Notice of eviction walked back by City. After a flurry of correspondence between our legal team and the City’s, we are unable to obtain written assurances that City no one will be displaced against their will. Thus, a motion was filed to the courts requesting an injunction against the City of Hamilton, prohibiting the dismantling of encampments.

Related Media

Hamilton to remove 2 homeless encampments, local agencies file motion for injunction

Hamilton advocates pursue legal action against city on homeless encampments

July 30

  • Dozens of residents respond to the call from HAMSMaRT K6 and the HCLC to write to their councilors to request that residents not be moved.
  • A temporary 10 day Injunction against the dismantlement is granted by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
  • K6 and HAMSMaRT release a public statement in response to misinformation being circulated about our position.
  • Terry Whitehead says we should be investigated for our work on encampments.

Related Media

Injunction restricts City of Hamilton from removing people from encampments

City can’t break up homeless camps, Superior Court rules

August 3

August 7

August 9

August 8-10

  • Keeping Six does a survey of encampment residents on a model on City Camping that has been adopted in Victoria BC. Encampment residents generally receptive to that model.

August 11

August 14

August 21

  • After a four hour in camera discussion, Council votes 9-3 in favour of challenging the injunction in court instead of a negotiated solution.

Related Media:

City of Hamilton to challenge injunction preventing it from dismantling over 50 tents

City will head to court for right to dismantle the 51 tents pitched downtown

Hamilton’s encampment crisis has been years in the making

August 31

  • HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six again reach out to City Council, staff and their legal team to request dialogue and negotiated solution that can better address the needs of the entire Hamilton community.

September 30

  • A deal is reached

Related Media:

Joint statement with the city

 

October 7

  • The Superior Court of Ontario lifts the injunction, permitting the City to move forward with the dismantling of encampments.

October 8

  • K6 & HAMSMaRT launch a duffel bag, tote, and suitcase drive to help people move from the soon-to-be dismantled encampments.

October 14 – 15

  • City dismantles Ferguson and FirstOntario Centre encampments

October 21

Our statement:

Hello Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT supporters,

 

We hope this update finds you well. This last week has been one of the hardest in the very short lives of our two organizations. The dismantlement of the encampments at Ferguson and FirstOntario on Thursday and Friday last week was devastating for all of us. Most of all for our friends who live in encampments. This is one week where we would encourage you to sit down and take the time to read the whole newsletter, not just the bolded points.

 

The lifting of the injunction was permitted by the agreement we reached with the City, which puts into place a new protocol for engaging encampments and acknowledges that some people have nowhere else to go and thus need to be permitted to stay in place. We knew in accepting the agreement that this clearing would happen. We did our absolute best to ensure that the harms of the process were reduced as much as possible. We spent time with people in the lead up to Thursday and Friday ensuring residents knew the deadline. We provided everyone with suitcases to pack their things, meaning they were able to pack before the day of. We asked waste management to take their lead from HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six, and as far as we know nothing was disposed of that people did not consent to. We absolutely know that this does not mean that people did not dispose of things that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Many people were able to access indoor spaces, including some single men who went to shelter and several women and couples who were able to access newly opened hotel spaces. Shelters in the city are now trying to keep up with the increased demand. As we expected, some people were also forced to move their tents to new locations. We drove many of those people and their belongings to other locations in the City where they should be protected by the new protocol. The City will now turn its attention to the other smaller encampments around the Hamilton. We will continue to engage and support people in the process as they are approached in the context of the injunction settlement.

 

The process of forcing people from their homes into further uncertainty, in the driving rain no less, was utterly inhumane. Many have questioned and criticized us for being party to it. We hear and accept your criticism, and are committed to reflecting on it. We will continue to support those who were displaced to other locations in the city. We continue to do our street outreach twice per week, and have funding to continue this until at least the end of 2020. We are also now going to pause to reflect on this process, what worked, what we have achieved, what we could or should have done differently and what comes next. This last six months has been extremely intense and trying, as we waded into unchartered territory for both of our groups. In the coming weeks we will announce a community report back. Please stay tuned. And please, if you see the need, take up this work in your own way, remembering to build relationships with people who are homeless and centering their material needs in the present moment.

 

Finally, we maintain that tents are not a solution. We need housing for all. But if you see people in tents in your community, it really is because there is no other option for people. Before you pick up the phone to complain, consider that. Think about what you would want someone to do if it was you, and remember that it could be you. Talk with your neighbors about how you can support and create relationships with your neighbors experiencing homelessness. It is in doing this, building community, that we are all kept safe.

 

As always, we exist within a broader context. What does it mean for settler governments to displace people on stolen land? How is the crisis of homelessness driven by colonization? We must also contend with this if we really want to end homelessness and ensure everyone has access to safe, secure, stable, supportive housing. Please stay informed about 1492 Land Back Lane, the ongoing arrests of land defenders, and donate to their legal fund as both the criminal and civil Canadian legal systems are used to continue colonial violence. This piece by Haudenosaunee author Alicia Elliot is an excellent and important analysis for those of us in health care about the links between psychiatric health care, stolen land, and colonization. On the east coast, settlers are physically attacking and harming Mi’kmaq lobster fishers, with the RCMP standing by without intervening. There is a comprehensive overview of the issue, including the historical and legal contexts and the current violence, on the APTN website. A list of ways to take action, including contacting your elected officials and making monetary donations and educating friends and family, is available here.

 

Colonial violence in healthcare is nothing new, but has reared its ugly head the last few weeks. We are angry about the harm inflicted on Joyce Echaquan and Georges-Hervé Awashish by healthcare workers, and it is our responsibility to speak out against anti-Indigenous racism whenever and wherever we see it. We are grateful for the leadership of Indigenous women here in Hamilton who have struck an Indigenous Health Practitioners task force. Health workers in Hamilton, please ask your institutions how they are responding to and engaging with the task force.

 

On the outreach front, we continue to get many requests from community members for tents, tarps, and 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 reach out to 5 friends, family members or colleagues who don’t follow our work and ask them to consider donating. And the November 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 November, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

 

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor, bylaw enforcement, and police, and implore them to adhere to the settlement encampment protocol. Please copy us info@hamsmart.ca and info@keepingsix.org on all emails. For emails to the city, please also copy the city clerk clerk@hamilton.ca.

 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:
CONTACT CITY COUNCILLORS, BYLAW ENFORCEMENT, AND POLICE asking them to respect the settlement encampment protocol. See details above.
DONATE TO THE SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS via e-transfer for supplies to landback6nations@gmail.com or to their legal fund.
SUPPORT MI’KMAK LOBSTER FISHERS by emailing elected officials, donating funds, and talking to family and friends. Resource list here.
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 or engage with the Indigenous Health Practitioners task force.
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.

 

In Solidarity,

 

HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six

October 23

  • The City deems John Rebecca Park a playground to justify evicting encampment residents.

Related Media:

City and police converge on encampment in downtown Hamilton park

//THE LATEST_

Invitation to Report Back Webinar DECEMber 10

November 17, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six community,

We hope you are doing well, or at least keeping your head above water. We know many of you live and work on the frontlines in hospitals and schools, shelters and on the street. This remains a challenging time, and we are grateful for all of you and your ongoing support.

We are overdue in inviting you to join us for a community report back. This email is an invitation to join us online Thursday, December 10 at 8 pm for a conversation with HAMSMaRT, Keeping Six, people living in encampments, and the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic about the injunction process and impact. Join us to hear about our experiences and what we learned, as well as to share your feedback on the injunction. We will reflect on our successes, as well as the shortcomings of our collective work. Then we will consider what next steps might be in supporting people who are homeless and unsheltered in Hamilton. You must pre-register, and can get a ticket for free or by donation here. Many of the people in our community do not have regular access to the internet so we are also connecting with people in encampments and asking them directly for their feedback.

There will be an opportunity to ask questions during the report back, but we would also appreciate questions in advance so that we can structure our program around the community’s concerns and interests. Questions can be emailed to info@hamsmart.ca

In solidarity, HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six

Want to get involved? Volunteer with us!

EST. 2018

Keeping Six – Hamilton Harm Reduction Action League is a community-based organization that defends the rights, dignity, and humanity of people who use drugs.