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Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 16

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 16

July 8, 2020

Forgive the delay in our weekly update!  It has been a long, hot week especially for those of us living outdoors or in housing without air conditioning. There are very few cooling centres in the city but we encourage you to access them if and when you need to – locations include the Central Public Library and a complete list is here: 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 buy and decorate brown paper bags that the lunches go in! 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.

The tent drive has been an overwhelming success – thank you! Thanks to all of YOU, we have received $815 in donations and 14 tents to date – well on our way to our goal of 100 tents or $5000! We reiterate, as we continue to collect tents as a mitigation strategy, that all people deserve access to dignified housing that suits their needs. Please consider donating new or gently used tents or donating cash so we can buy items people need. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate cash, go to https://keepingsix.org/support/.

The Keeping Six Arts Collective is poised to make some exciting announcements about an online art gallery and store which will showcase our community’s amazing talent.  We are also in the final phases of launching an art competition for people with lived experience of homelessness and/or drug use.  Stay tuned!!! 

The K6 Arts Collective is on fire this week with the announcement of their partnership with Open Heart arts and entertainment group to participate in this year’s COVID modified Hamilton Fringe Festival.  Their production is called “I Really Wish You Knew Me” and features our K6 Arts Collective members Dani Deloitinville and Jammy Pierre.  Buy a ticket to have a theatre performance come right to your front door!

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 extreme heat and lack of access to drinkable water remains the number one issue right now.   The places where people would normally access water continue to be largely either closed or are prohibiting people from using the bathrooms to access water or the facilities.  Social service agencies and community organizations like ours are working hard, with the support of donated water bottles from the city, to meet the demand for water, but we cannot keep up.  While we wait for the city to respond with a more fulsome response to our urgent requests to make potable water more available to people experiencing homelessness or those who are forced to leave their sweltering apartments, we are asking residents, who have the means, to make water and juice drops in the city. Our experience and consultation with the community suggests the following  non-exhaustive list of locations are high needs: the parkette at King and Wellington Sts, Ferguson St Station between King and Main Sts, Gore Park, Rebecca St park (at John St), on top of Jackson Square, around City Hall, Corktown Park (Ferguson and Forrest Sts),  Beasley Park (Mary and Cannon Sts), Woodlands Park (Wentworth and Barton), outside the Barton branch of the Library.  If you would like to deliver water or juice directly to an encampment, please remember that you are approaching someone’s home and do so as you would any other Hamilton resident’s home.

We are also hearing on outreach of a downtown business denying homeless people service because they are homeless. We will be watching this situation closely.

People are grateful the Wesley showers are open – thank you to the Wesley, the YWCA, and Mission Services for providing these services!  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. Ensure that people have adequate access to potable water.
  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.

The June 18 webinar on mutual aid in Hamilton is now available to view online here: https://youtu.be/qLOKSjf92j0. Please feel free to share widely! You can turn on closed captions for accessibility – HUGE thank you to Yotakahron Jonathan, Alana Seldon, and Cara Evans for editing captions.

As we continue to learn as a group about defunding the police and how health workers can play a role in this work, we read this piece by Edward Hon-Sing Wong on the racist and colonial history of mental healthcare in Canada. In short: the history is long, violent, and ongoing. We cannot replace police with mental health workers without dismantling racism in mental health institutions and professions. We encourage everyone to read it, with the note that it includes explicit descriptions of racism, colonization, and ableism.

As justice seeking health workers, HAMSMaRT is committed to working to dismantle racism in the health care system more broadly. We look to take our lead from community leaders like the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion. They are hosting a series of important  Anti-Racism Online Sessions.  Wednesday (July 8th, 6 pm – 7 pm) the session will feature Yotakahron Jonathan (Mohawk Bear Clan of Six Nations of The Grand River, and a HAMSMaRT/Keeping Six cookie baking volunteer extraordinaire!) to talk about “An Indigenous perspective on racism within Healthcare.”  Watch live on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube.  See you there!

This past week marked the significant colonial anniversaries and celebrations of the plunder that are Canada Day and the Fourth of July.  Here is a short video with the words of Art Manuel, legendary Indigenous writer and activist, from the 2017 Unsettling Canada150 campaign on what we are called to celebrate on July 1.  As Donald Trump marks the founding of the United States in the territory of the Lakota Sioux people in the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore on the day before the anniversary of this 1852 speech delivered by Frederick Douglass, What to The Slave is the Fourth of July, we reflect on what it means to advocate for, work for and create justice on colonized land.  We ask ourselves what does housing security and justice look like on stolen land? How do we reduce the harms of drug use without reducing the harms of colonization? How can there be justice for any if there is not justice for all?

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.