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Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 15

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 15

June 30, 2020

Happy Pride to all of our K6 and HAMSMaRT friends – we remember that the first Pride was a riot, led by trans women of colour! It’s been another busy week for the HAMSMaRT and K6 team, with lots to tell you about. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update.

The July volunteer sign up schedule is open and we are still looking for a few people to join the effort – especially people to bake! We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags and going on outreach. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have received the sign up link last week – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org you need it again.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for July, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer. Please spread the word to friends and family, and pull together a team if you have the capacity – we have one crew from Elora, ON of about 6 bakers who sign up for a single day and each contribute 1 or 2 dozen baked goods.

We are still collecting donations, with many people asking us for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags, as well as cold drinks as the weather gets warmer. We are launching a tent and sleeping bag drive today! Please donate new or gently used tents and sleeping bags. Cash is also useful so we can buy items people need. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate cash, go to https://keepingsix.org/support/.

Dr Tim O’Shea with HAMSMaRT is gearing up to start offering COVID-19 testing to farm workers in the Hamilton region. We were enraged to see the Government of Ontario allow asymptomatic or presymptomatic workers continue to work alongside other people. As Tim tweeted, “There is no reasonable public health justification or explanation for this plan; the only way to land on this policy is by first deciding that some lives are worth more than others.” While we believe that testing is an important way to protect the health of all workers, it is not sufficient. Farm workers must be guaranteed that they will not lose income, their job, or their immigration status if they test positive. Undocumented workers must be guaranteed that they will not be deported. And safer living and working conditions that limit transmission of COVID-19 must be provided, along with the legal rights of permanent resident status. To learn more, read this article where organizers with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change articulate the problems and necessary solutions.

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.  Thank you to all of the volunteers who make this happen! The heat and lack of access to drinkable water is the number one issue right now. On outreach this week, we heard about how difficult it is for people to survive when access to facilities and services keeps changing. The porta potties in front of First Ontario Centre were removed, and shower access remains restricted. 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.

In local news, Lyndon George shared his story about how “systemic racism affected the inadequate care for chest pains and shortness of breath he received at Hamilton General’s emergency department.” His story is all too familiar to Black and Indigenous people, who have to “‘strategize’ to receive care, ‘navigate’ the system, or ‘self-triage’ by relying on friends and family when the normal points of access are closed to them.” We hope you read his story and reflect on how we can hold the institutions we work in and receive care from accountable to anti-racist work. And people in prison at Barton St jail, aka the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre, are on hunger strike to protest the decline in meal quality since COVID-19 started. They are also highlighting other issues caused by COVID-19 precautions in the name of “safety”, such as restrictions on visitors, and rotating lockdowns that limit access to programs and outdoor time. When the spectre of safety is invoked, we must always ask – who defines what safety is, who is safety for, who is left out, and who is harmed? We encourage you to consider these questions while listening to an audio statement about conditions inside the jail and demands for dignity from one of the hunger strikers.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association released their report Stay Off the Grass: COVID-19 and law enforcement in Canada. It documents what we and many other advocates have been saying all along about pandemic laws and ticketing – “the arbitrary rules, increased enforcement powers, and significant fines are having a disproportionate impact on specific communities, including Black, Indigenous, and other racialized groups, those with precarious housing, recent immigrants, youth, members of the LGBTQ2S community, and certain religious minorities.” And of course, these groups are not mutually exclusive. People exist at the intersections of these identities and experiences, and face increased state sanctioned violence as a result. There is no safety for people who are homeless and people who use drugs without safety for people who are Black and people who are Indigenous and all racialized people. This is one of the many, many reasons why HAMSMaRT supports Black organizers who are calling and acting to defund the Hamilton Police Service.

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 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.