For the most up-to-date information regarding our response to COVID-19, please monitor our COVID-19 Info Centre or our Twitter account.

Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 4

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 4

April 13, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

Seeing the buds on trees and the croci blooming has lifted our spirits this week. There are so many reminders around us of spring and new life and the beauty of the natural world. Our week was full of meeting people, advocating, and planning for the road ahead. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We have almost entirely filled our volunteer schedule for the month of April. Some of our volunteers have also been deployed to staff the new rest and hygiene at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church downtown. We are still looking for people to buy and decorate brown paper bags, and the volunteer schedule sign up for May will come out next week. If you want to join the volunteer crew, sign up here https://keepingsix.org/volunteer.

We are still collecting donations – cash is useful so we can buy items people need, as well as donations of cell phones, tablets, laptops, tents, sleeping bags, tarps, and individually packaged water bottles or soft drinks or juice. To donate camping equipment email tents@keepingsix.org. To donate electronics or phones email info@hamsmart.ca. To donate beverages email volunteer@keepingsix.org.

Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 600 lunches distributed along with over 600 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. People are glad the weather is warming up, but remain worried about getting tickets or being kicked off the sites where they are camping out. We ask everyone to keep up the pressure on police and public officials not to ticket people who are homeless – consider writing your city councillor or calling Hamilton Police Services to share your concerns. In addition, if you or someone you know has been ticketed by the police or by law for not being able to physically distance please email us at info@keepingsix.org.

We are grateful to St. Patrick’s for showing community leadership and opening up the first rest and hygiene station downtown. If you are connected to other faith groups or community spaces that could do the same thing, please encourage them to consider taking action to serve our neighbours. We are happy to consult with new groups and share lessons learned, provide infection control advice, and recruit volunteers. For more information on what is involved in setting up a rest and hygiene centre, contact info@hamsmart.ca.

The City of Hamilton opened an overflow men’s shelter at Copps Coliseum (aka First Ontario Centre) Saturday night. We commend the hard work that it took to make this happen, and are glad to see steps being taken to facilitate physical distancing for people who are homeless. We continue to believe that the best approach for reducing infection transmission and promoting dignity is to provide people with individual rooms (e.g. hotels, motels, or student residences) while working towards permanent housing. For inspiration we can look to Project Roomkey in California, and the collective demands for housing from Super InTent Society in Victoria, BC.

Keeping Six collaborated with health workers and people who use drugs to create a harm reduction handout on bystander response to opioid overdose during COVID-19. You can download a full page flyer and a postcard-size version. Please print, post, share, tweet, and get the word out! If you have access to printing large quantities of black and white flyers, please email us info@hamsmart.ca – we would love to be able to give these out on outreach.

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. We were angry to hear Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr David Williams, state that Ontario will not be collecting data on race or other socio-demographic variables in COVID-19 testing, diagnosis, or mortality because in his words “All groups of people are equally important to us.” This perfectly illustrates the difference between equal (the same care for everyone, regardless of circumstance or need) and equity (everyone gets the care they need). We know that racism and colonization and other social determinants affect who gets sick, how sick they get, and what kind of care they receive. We have signed on to the Alliance for Healthier Communities open letter calling on the Government of Ontario to collect this data so that health inequities can be identified and addressed.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

VOLUNTEER to 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@keepingsix.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.

CONTACT YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR To ask them about what they are doing to support people who are homeless and people who use drugs, and request they stop the ticketing of people who are homeless and instead focus the city’s efforts on providing them with adequate shelter, food, and services.

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.