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Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 17

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 17

July 14, 2020

This week has been busy, particularly with respect to how the city is dealing with encampments and people living in encampments. 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.

There’s still time to get a ticket to the Keeping Six Arts Collective and Open Heart theatre company’s “I Really Wish You Knew Me” at the Hamilton Fringe Festival.  The production features our K6 Arts Collective members Dani Deloitinville and Jammy Pierre, and is based on the stories we are hearing on outreach and through our arts programming.  Buy a ticket to watch online, OR 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 750  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. We are asking YOU, if you 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.

On Friday morning of last week K6 was asked by the City to be on site at the York and Bay encampment outside of the  First Ontario Centre to support encampment residents while city workers came in to clear fire exits and remove large objects obstructing walkways and exits.  We were grateful to be included in the efforts to make the encampment safer for all Hamilton residents. This message of safety clean up was contradicted by what we heard from residents when a HAMSMaRT doctor arrived on site.  Residents had been told that morning that their personal belongings, beds and mattresses were being removed. Several supporters showed up on a moment’s notice to witness and stand in solidarity with people living there. HAMSMaRT and K6 were joined by people from Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and Disability Justice Network of Ontario. The fire exits and sidewalks were promptly cleared by residents, with the support of the staff at the FOC shelter. The city did NOT end up taking people’s belongings and their means of living  that day, and we believe it is because of the quick response of our friends and partners. Together, we can protect each other and keep everyone safe. There is still no good plan to ensure every person has access to adequate housing that meets their needs, and so we still demand that encampments are not cleared.

To this end, we have partnered with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic (HCLC) to advocate that the city change its current approach to encampments and refrain from moving people along unless a suitable and agreeable housing or living alternative is available to the person being moved. People do not simply disappear when they are moved along. Clearing encampments is a perpetual make work project of displacing people who have nowhere else to be. We are pleased to have delegated to the Emergency and Community Services Committee of the City of Hamilton yesterday morning, Monday July 13 at 9:30am.  Please read all three delegations from  HCLC, HAMSMaRT, and Keeping Six. You can watch a recording of the meeting here.  We are encouraged  to see this issue discussed and the delegations considered thoroughly. Councilor Brad Clark moved that the city solicitor provide a brief to the committee on the court decisions cited in the HCLC delegation, and their implications for the Hamilton context. Councilor Nann requested moved that there be a response to delegations in the upcoming report on encampments to the committee by city staff and that that same report also include an analysis of the human rights based approached advanced by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing in her National Protocol for Homeless Encampments (linked to below). The first motion carried unanimously and the second with a single dissenting vote.  We admit, we are a bit confused by Councilor Whitehead’s No vote to simply consider the implications of human rights based approach to encampments.  We will continue to connect with the community on the question of encampments and advocate for a just and humane approach to encampments, that recognizes that people don’t cease to exist once moved along.

Add your voice to the growing movement for a humane and just approach to encampments in the city. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to offer services. Our requests are:

  • Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  • Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance.
  • Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  • Ensure that people have adequate access to potable water.
  • 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.

This week we invite you to learn more about encampments and think about how you might take action to support people living in encampments in our city. Our actions are guided by the perspectives of people living in encampments in Hamilton, A National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada from Make The Shift, and public health guidance from the CDC. For more information on encampments, although it is from the USA, this is a good primer on homeless encampments, various approaches to supporting them and those living in them, and what we know about their impact on communities. We are inspired by the Toronto Encampment Support Network, who provides direct support to people living in encampments. In their words, they are not an organization, just an organized group of people. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something – what can you do?

We continue to try to think about encampments and who has a right to be on what land in the context of Canada as a colonial state.  July 11th marks the 30th anniversary of the invasion of Kanesatake, what has come to be known as the Oka crisis.  In this remarkable chapter in Canadian and Mohawk history that resonates loud and clear today, Canada called in the military to defend the expansion of a golf course on a sacred burial ground.  Watch this short and poignant video of Ellen Gabriel, who was a leader on the ground in 1990 cut right to the heart of the matter.  Here, Gord Hill, author of 500 years of Resistance, summarizes the conflict and Mohawk victory in 5 minutes.  There is also a full length documentary Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance by filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin for a more fulsome history of events.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

DROP WATER AND JUICE TO LOCATIONS IN THE CITY WHERE IT IS NEEDED See above for a list of potential places where there may be people who need drinks

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.