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Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly 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.

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.