//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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- K6 requests that report back from outreach be a standing item on weekly homeless sector COVID-19 management meetings.
- 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.
- HAMSMaRT and K6 join meeting convened around encampment management by the City of Hamilton.
- 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.
- 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.
- Residents at Jackie Washington given eviction notice; City Homeless Sector staff intervene to extend deadline.
- Email from HAMSMaRT and K6 requesting to sit down with Jason Farr who responds he will speak to staff and get back to us.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Release of Love in the Time of COVID, K6 Arts Collective Zine focused on experience of being homeless during COVID.
- 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.
- In response to growing need, K6 launches Tent Drive.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Hamilton Spectator publishes an opinion piece by K6 and HAMSMaRT co-counsel, Wade Poziomka, responding to Council’s political spinning of encampments.
- The City does not challenge the extension of the injunction against dismantling encampments. It is extended until a court date can be set in September.
- Councillor Terry Whitehead’s op-ed about encampments is published in The Hamilton Spectator.
- 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.
- Maureen Wilson releases nuanced statement about encampments
- Two Hamilton social workers respond to Terry Whitehead’s op-ed.
- After a four hour in camera discussion, Council votes 9-3 in favour of challenging the injunction in court instead of a negotiated solution.
- 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.
- A deal is reached
- The Superior Court of Ontario lifts the injunction, permitting the City to move forward with the dismantling of encampments.
- 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
- The City deems John Rebecca Park a playground to justify evicting encampment residents.
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 email@example.com.
In solidarity, HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six