For the most up-to-date information regarding our response to COVID-19, please monitor our COVID-19 Info Centre or our Twitter account.

Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 11

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 11

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

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.