K6 & HAMSMaRT Weekly Newsletter no. 7
May 4, 2020
Dear HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six Supporters,
Happy May! We hope you all found a way to enjoy the sunshine and warmth this weekend. It certainly lifted out spirits. 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, shopping for supplies, and staffing the rest and hygiene at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and New Vision United Church downtown. We are still looking for a few May volunteers – including someone to bake sweet treats this week. If you are registered as a volunteer but haven’t signed up yet, please do. You should have received a separate email with the sign up schedule. 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. To donate camping equipment email firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate electronics or phones email email@example.com. To donate beverages email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Outreach happened as planned three times this past week, with more than 900 lunches distributed along with over 900 home baked goods, art supplies, essentials, and harm reduction supplies for people who use drugs. The second rest and hygiene centre was opened by New Vision United Church, with the support of volunteers. We continue to advocate for a moratorium on the removal of encampments during the pandemic, until permanent housing solutions that meet people’s needs are found. People are also telling us they continue to urgently need access to showers, and to more washrooms.
Last week we reported that we were seeing what we think is a spike in overdoses, owing in part to a shortage of naloxone in people’s hands. We want to thank Hauser’s, Gibson’s, and Marchese Healthcare pharmacies for coming forward to donate Naloxone to our street outreach team, who have been getting it into people’s hands. We know that it is those of us with lived experience who do the most reversing of overdoses and that naloxone in people’s hands is life saving.
Dr Tim O’Shea is leading a research project that involves voluntary surveillance swabbing for COVID-19 of any shelter staff or client. This project involves offering a COVID-19 swab to everyone in a given shelter once weekly, so that pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic cases can be picked up early. Swabs have a quick turn around, with reports on the same day, allowing for timely action on results. So far, all of the surveillance swabs have come back negative (although there have been a few positive cases in the Hamilton shelter system to date, outside of this research project).
And finally a note on our connection to other struggles. This past Friday was May 1, otherwise known as May Day or International Workers Day. It has been striking to see who is essential during this pandemic – the truck drivers, the personal support workers, the grocery store workers, the food service workers, the farm workers, and many many more. And yet, PSWs are on part-time contracts so that employers don’t have to pay benefits despite chronic understaffing in long term care and home care; people are being forced back to work at a meat packing plant home to one of the largest outbreaks in North America; and the cramped living conditions put migrant farm workers at high risk of acquiring COVID-19 while the precarity of their employment prevents many from speaking out about concerns. We hope that the pandemic illuminates who is truly essential to our economy and our lives, and that labour laws and minimum wage will be permanently changed to reflect this truth. To learn more about labour organizing in Ontario, visit https://www.15andfairness.org/.
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements for drop off or pick up.
DONATE WATER An essential item for the outreach lunches, please be in touch at email@example.com 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 place a moratorium on the removal of encampments 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.
Organizers from Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT