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Keeping Six

NewsletterK6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 5

K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 5

April 20, 2020

Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,

Since the last newsletter, we marked one month of local COVID-19 pandemic precautions and HAMSMaRT-Keeping Six joint outreach and response. We are heartened to see this community grow as we stand with our neighbours to support the dignity of every person in Hamilton. Read the bolded sentences below to get the main points.

We have an active roster of volunteers baking cookies, decorating brown paper bags, going on outreach, and staffing the rest and hygiene at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church downtown. We are looking for someone to go shopping for essential supplies this week (using generously donated funds). We will be sending out the May volunteer schedule this week to everyone who has signed up to volunteer. If you can do the shopping this week, email volunteer@keepingsix.org. If you are not already registered as a volunteer and want to join the volunteer crew for the May schedule, 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, tents, sleeping bags, fleece blankets, tarps, and individually packaged water bottles or soft drinks or juice. Are you a sewer? Warm fleece blankets would be especially helpful! 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. The feedback we are hearing from the street remains largely unchanged, people need places to be, to wash their hands, to shower, do laundry.  Despite the hardship, people are in generally good spirits and are always kind and receptive to our outreach wagoneers. The resting and hygiene centre at St Patrick’s Church is a wonderful success after its second week of being open. Discussions are underway with other community partners to open more.

We have learned that police are planning to force people to move their small encampment off of  the property at Sir John A MacDonald school. We are reassured to know that Mental Health and Street Outreach is working closely with people to ensure that anyone who needs or wants  a place to stay has access to one. We are asking that this and all encampments in the city be left alone. Our message remains the same – people need places to live and exist and practice physical distancing. Ticketing and policing people is not an effective public health strategy, and should be stopped. 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 or fill out this online form https://forms.gle/V1JfxA5bjZMZzHVD7 to notify Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. We are pleased to be issuing a press release this afternoon in partnership with the HCLC giving a legal and clinical opinion that people living in the same shelter are living in the same household and thus should not be ticketed for violation of physical distancing laws. Read and share!

And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. It is a unique moment in history to watch the same problem unfold across the globe, and see how communities respond to the COVID-19 threat.  As we rage and organize for the resolution of inequities here in Hamilton, we must make the connection to the ways in which global inequities and power over others is causing immense harm around the world. The US trade blockade prevents essential COVID-19 testing supplies from reaching Cuba, and US sanctions are hindering the public health response in places like Iran and North Korea. We can read about what life during COVID-19 is like in Palestine, where the response is hampered by restricted access to basic medical resources from long before the pandemic. Here in Canada, the federal government’s inaction on COVID-19 in prisons has allowed an outbreak to flourish in Mission Institution and is part of Canada’s ongoing legacy of violence against First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. At the same time, the response from the people is inspiring! We are witnessing Indigenous people take action to protect the health of their own peoples, like the Zapatistas in autonomous Chiapas using their existing health and political infrastructure to protect their communities during COVID-19, and Six Nations of the Grand River taking care of their elders and community. We see Cuba sending doctors to Italy to assist with the COVID-19 response. This is just to name a few of the responses around the world founded in love for one another and the collective good. K6 and HAMSMaRT draw inspiration and hope from these and other efforts to fight this pandemic and its unjust distribution of consequences.  We encourage you to do the same! Please take heart and spend some time this week learning more about the global COVID-19 situation, and consider how we can act in solidarity with and learn from oppressed peoples organizing around the world.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE THIS WEEK:

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!

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.

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.