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Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 3

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 3

April 6, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

It was so nice to see the sun come out this weekend! We’ve had a full week of advocating, organizing, baking, decorating, outreach, a newspaper ad, and more. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We are so proud to have an ad in Saturday’s Hamilton Spectator. We wanted to show our appreciation for shelter workers, essential workers, healthcare workers, and especially for people who use drugs and people who are homeless. We invite you to print off the ad from our website here: https://keepingsix.org/posters/, decorate, and hang in your window. You can join the conversation on social media by sharing all the ways that #HamiltonStandsTogether.

We have almost entirely filled our volunteer schedule for the month of April. We are still looking for one outreach volunteer for the week of April 13, and people to buy and decorate brown paper bags all month. If you want to join the volunteer crew, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We have received an increasing number of requests for tents, tarps, and sleeping bags from people who are homeless. The homelessness crisis in Canada started long before this pandemic, and we as a society have not provided adequate housing for everyone. We want to be clear that we believe the city should immediately provide safe, adequate, independent housing for every person who wants or needs it during the pandemic. However this collective responsibility has not been met, and we respect the autonomy of people to decide how best to meet their own needs. We are starting to collect and distribute *brand new* 1 to 5 person tents, sleeping bags, and tarps. To donate, email tents@keepingsix.org.

We also need electronics, in particular flip phones so that people can stay in touch with family, friends, access services, and connect to telemedicine. To donate old phones, email info@hamsmart.ca and we can arrange to pick them up.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 450 lunches distributed along with over 600 home baked goods, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. Sketchbooks were a huge hit, and we’re excited to see the art that people share with us. We saw a lot of the same folks on outreach each time, and it was nice to start building relationships with people. People are hungry, there are still some meal programs but not as many as before COVID-19. People are worried about themselves, their loved ones, and the community. The biggest problem is that there is still nowhere to be – despite weeks of pandemic planning and response. In good news, Councillor Nann’s office wrote to us that 10 porta-potties and 5 hand washing stations are now operational downtown. And we are especially grateful to Father Tony O’Dell and the parish at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, who are just about to launch a 7 days a week rest and hygiene station at their church. We will be recruiting volunteers to staff these rest and hygiene stations – again, if you want to volunteer, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are concerned about increased policing due to COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on people who are homeless. New rules under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) prohibit groups of more than 5 from gathering, require people charged under EMCPA to identify themselves, and impose a $750 fine or more for failure to comply with any emergency order. We cannot share details out of respect for people’s privacy, but can confirm at least two $750 fines have been handed out to people who are homeless in Hamilton. As we await further access to rest and hygiene stations, we implore the city and the province to stop criminalizing people who are homeless and instead do absolutely everything in their power to make it possible for people for people to participate in physical distancing with dignity. If you or someone you know receives a ticket, please be in touch with us at info@keepingsix.org.  We are working with community partners for a resolution.

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. A mere 39 days ago, HAMSMaRT hosted a film screening and discussion in relation to another emergency – the construction of pipelines without consent on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, under the approval and enforcement of the settler Canadian state. For many of us it seems like a lifetime ago. But as we think about how homelessness makes people and communities vulnerable to COVID-19, we can consider the definition of Indigenous homelessness in Canada. One dimension of this definition is contemporary geographic separation – an Indigenous individual or community’s separation from Indigenous lands after colonial control. Respecting the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en peoples and the jurisdiction of the hereditary chiefs over unceded territory is fundamental to addressing the root cause of homelessness amongst Indigenous people – colonization. Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on Wet’suwet’en, particularly the risk of COVID-19 outbreak due to ongoing Coastal Gas Link activity on Wet’suwet’en territory.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

VOLUNTEER to do outreach or decorate brown paper bags for outreach lunches, or to help staff the rest and hygiene station, by signing up here: https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

DONATE CASH (or ask people in your network to donate) https://keepingsix.org/support/.

DONATE BRAND NEW TENTS, SLEEPING BAGS, OR TARPS by emailing us tents@keepingsix.org.

DONATE WORKING ELECTRONICS As we anticipate the need to isolate in the shelter population, electronics for telemedicine consults and staving off boredom are needed. If you have an old, working laptop, tablet, smartphone, or flip phone please be in touch at info@hamsmart.ca to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

DONATE JUICE BOXES OR CANS OF POP These are a highly requested item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at volunteer@keepinsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

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.

In solidarity,

Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT

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.