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Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 10

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 10

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

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.