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Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 21

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 21

August 10, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters, We hope you are all doing well and staying cool and dry! Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points from our weekly update. The August volunteer sign up schedule is open! We still need people to help decorate paper lunch bags, and have isolated openings for outreach and baking. If you are a registered volunteer, you should have already received the sign up link – shoot us an email at volunteer@keepingsix.org if you haven’t received it.  If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for August, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.  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! We are still asking YOU, if you have the means, to make water, juice, or popsicle 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 or popsicles 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. Please do not drop off other items without confirming explicitly that they are needed – there is a growing issue with garbage at the encampments coming from well meaning but unhelpful donations. The injunction to prevent the city from clearing homeless encampments has been extended, by consensus, until mid-September. We are grateful to be working with the Hamilton community to support people living in encampments, and hope the city is able to find housing arrangements acceptable to the people being housed for every person in an encampment. As alternative approaches to encampments, including sanctioned sites and permits, are being explored, we are talking to people in encampments to hear what system would work best for them. We also want to remind everyone reading this that we (HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six) have no exclusive ownership over encampments – we are heartened by the encampment support network in Toronto, where different groups of neighbours are supporting different encampments in their neighbourhoods. Anyone can do this work – find a friend, and get started! We do our best to always ask people in encampments what they need and follow their lead, and encourage others to do the same.  You can add your voice to the growing movement for a humane and just approach to encampments and people who are homeless in the city. Please keep up the pressure on city officials, and consider who else in your network might be able to take action and/or offer services. Our requests are:

  1. Stop ticketing people who are homeless.
  2. Work to quickly open more washrooms, showers, and physical spaces for people to safely be throughout downtown and east Hamilton.
  3. Ensure that people have adequate access to potable water.
  4. Take a housing first approach to helping people access non-congregate housing options.
  5. Enact a moratorium on clearing encampments on public lands as per available public health guidance:
  • The City not dismantle homeless encampments.
  • The City provide interim and permanent housing for encampment residents with necessary supports.
  • The City prioritize individuals experiencing homelessness for urgent housing placement.
  • The City engage encampment residents in assessing their needs prior to dismantling.
  • The City remove barriers inshelters and hotels in order to accommodate the individual needs of encampment residents.
  • The City allow for sanctioned encampment sites and/or designate specific parks/public lands where individuals are allowed to set up tents/temporary structures.
  • The City allow for a streamlined, low-barrier, accessible process of issuing permits allowing for tents and temporary structures.

Please take 5 minutes today to call or email your city councillor about these urgent needs, and copy us info@hamsmart.ca and info@keepingsix.org as well as the city clerk clerk@hamilton.ca on all correspondence.  CONTINUE TO SUPPORT SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS. An overview of the situation from one of the organizers Skyler Williams can be viewed here and an update from this week can be listened to here. There are regular updates posted on the 1492 Land Back Lane facebook group. If you’re a settler, answer the call from people on the ground to email your MP and federal ministers. A copy of the most recent supplies needed list is here, but the facebook page will have ongoing updates. The site can only be accessed currently via 6th line road on Six Nations reserve, as the police have blocked highway 6. See screenshot attached with directions. There is also a call to donate funds for supplies and legal fees via e-transfer to landback6nations@gmail.com.   Finally, as a harm reduction group and a healthcare group, we are continually reminded that we are living through another public health emergency – the overdose death crisis. We do not even have accurate data in Ontario, with the most recent provincial death statistics available being from September 2019. The province’s Chief Coroner Dr Dick Huyer recently commented that we are now seeing ~55 overdose deaths/week in Ontario, up from ~44/week pre-pandemic. As we lose people close to us, friends and patients we care for, we ask ourselves: how much longer this carnage will be allowed to go on unabated? We’ve seen how one public health emergency can bring state resources to bear – so why not the overdose crisis? Zoe Dodd and Mark Tyndall offer some insight in their article How Structural Violence, Prohibition, and Stigma Have Paralyzed North American Responses to Opioid Overdose. We encourage every health worker reading this newsletter to check out the article, which reminds us that “Physicians and physician groups can play a major role in all of these areas by including social support in their treatment plans, actively breaking down stigma by treating patients with respect, offering evidence-based addiction treatment, and promoting harm reduction. These interventions could greatly improve health care outcomes and reduce opioid overdose deaths. In addition, physicians should be at the forefront of challenging drug laws and a criminal justice system that inflicts so much harm on patients and their families.” We continue to consider how we can take action to mitigate the harms of drug criminalization. ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:DONATE TO FUND REPAIRS TO KANYENKEHAKA KANONHSES via GoFundMe – they are $6700 away from their goal!DONATE TO THE SIX NATIONS LAND DEFENDERS via e-transfer to landback6nations@gmail.comDROP WATER, JUICE, OR POPSICLES TO LOCATIONS IN THE CITY WHERE IT IS NEEDED See above for a list of potential places where there may be people who need drinksCONTACT 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. DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) here.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.