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Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 13

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 13

June 15, 2020

Happy almost-solstice! The long, sunny days are boosting our spirits. As we enter the fourth month of pandemic conditions and street outreach, we are learning & growing just like the flora and fauna around us. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.Our quarterly zine is out! Check out the digital copy for art, stories, and insights from people we meet on outreach. This edition is titled “Love in the time of COVID-19” and features art from a mini-zine project titled “I really wish you knew me”.We are still looking for a few people to sign up for June! In particular we need one or two people each week to bake 100 sweet treats, and brown paper bag decorators! And the July volunteer schedule will come out later this week. We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and shopping for supplies. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have received the sign up link in May- shoot us an email if you need it again.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for June or July, 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/.

Over 90 people are registered 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!

Welcome to our two new co-coordinators! We were overwhelmed with the positive response to the job posting for the coordinator role. We have been able to hire two (!!!) fantastic people to run the outreach show the next 3 months, Marcie and Hannah. Marcie says “I am a person with lived experience who has come full circle. From being institutionalized and homeless to being at a place and in a position to give back and be a part of the solution. My dream is to see all people treated as people. And all voices to be heard.” Hannah Altimas shares “I am so grateful to be joining the K6 and HAMSMaRT team. With a passion for social justice, activism, outreach, and a background in wilderness therapy and remote emergency medicine I was concerned I would never find a job that truly utilized my eclectic skill set to its full potential. I am very glad to be proven wrong. I am excited to join the K6 and beyond jazzed to be a part of the outreach team. It really feels like a perfect match.” Please join us in extending a warm welcome to Marcie and Hannah!

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 750 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. People’s spirits were high this week, with the sun and warmth making life more comfortable. Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! 

Services remain limited downtown, and although it was a cooler week, planning needs to continue to ensure people have places to be and live, easy access to drinking water, places to use the washroom, and places to shower and do laundry. Just down the road there is a fantastic partnership between the YMCA and the City of London that could serve as a model. And while we acknowledge that homelessness will not be solved by individual small scale modular housing, we were intrigued and impressed to hear about a new community of small cabins for people who are homeless in Kitchener, ON. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. Our requests are:

  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.

Black Lives Matter rallies and organizing continued at a pace across Canada, the United States and around the world this past week. As organizations and individuals we continue to think and talk and strategize around the growing movement, advanced by Black and Indigenous thinkers, writers, organizers, activists and everyday people, to defund the police.  A month ago, the idea of diverting resources from armed organizations vested with the power and mandate to criminalize and contain problems of inequality,and exploitation toward infrastructure and services that could actually alleviate some of those injustices, would never see the light of day in mainstream conversations and media discourses. We thank BIPOC organizers for bringing this generative, life and community affirming idea into the spotlight. We encourage everyone to keep the pressure and momentum going. This is a long fight with enormous potential for justice seeking people across many different intersecting issues.

British Columbia released official numbers for May 2020 last week; 170 people died by overdose from a toxic drug supply. That is the most ever recorded in a single month in BC, and more than the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in BC since the pandemic started. Anecdotally we have seen a spike in overdose deaths here in Hamilton, although we do not have official numbers yet. We are heartbroken at the loss of these community members, friends, family members, people. Dr Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer, points to an increasingly toxic drug supply with international borders shut down, and increased social isolation as two factors contributing to the increase. We were extremely disappointed to see some people suggest via the media that the CERB benefit and people having increased access to cash is responsible for increased overdose deaths. Correlation is not causation, and it supports a dangerous and paternalistic narrative that people who are poor cannot be trusted to use money responsibly. People die from overdose because the illicit drug supply is toxic. We need the decriminalization of substances and access to a safe, regulated drug supply now. 

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

JOIN THE HAMILTONIANS AGAINST DECAIRE VIRTUAL PROTEST Wednesday June 17. In support of the demand from Black organizers in Hamilton to remove Glenn De Caire from his position as Director of Campus Security and Parking, and dissolve the Special Constables Unit at McMaster University. Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/704127483704395.

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.