City seeks comment on a strategy to support unhoused Hamilton residents
Hamilton, ON – The City is asking residents to comment on a plan outlining where encampments could legally be set up in Hamilton.
The proposed plan follows a state of emergency declaration by the City of Hamilton and several other Ontario municipalities around people experiencing homelessness, increasing needs among the unhoused residents, and significant housing affordability challenges in the city, particularly for individuals on a limited income.
The City also reviewed its approach to encampments following the passage of the federal governments National Housing Strategy Act, which recognizes housing as a human right, as well as a recent court decision in Waterloo Region which ruled that it was a breach of encamped individuals charter rights to ask them to move if there was no shelter or other accommodations available to them.
The plan involves the creation of an encampment protocol, which proposes to allow encampments of no more than five tents on municipal property throughout the City and will be subject to certain conditions. The protocol aims to:
- establish guidance on where tents and temporary shelters are not permitted, which in turn provide individuals who are sleeping unsheltered options for compliant locations.
- create stability of location, where unhoused community members can keep connections with service providers.
- enable service providers and local organizations the ability to better serve the health and safety needs of individuals in encampments.
- balance the needs of unhoused individuals in our community with those using parks and open spaces for recreational purposes.
The City is also considering and asking the public to comment on a separate preproposal in addition to the protocol in the form of sanctioned encampment sites.
Sanctioned encampment sites, which would be in addition to the guidance provided by the protocol, would permit between 20 and 50 tents at dedicated locations and would provide centralized locations that would provide opportunity for individuals to have access to services such as washrooms and running water, and where providers could offer ongoing health and social services supports.
If the City chooses not to proceed with dedicated, sanctioned encampment sites, the encampment protocol would be the primary tool used by the City in working with encamped residents. If sanctioned encampment sites are approved, the protocol would serve as a guide for unsheltered individuals who are unable or choose not to sleep in the sanctioned encampment sites.
The budget for housing and homelessness programs increased by 30 percent in the 2023 budget, and the City recognizes that these increases will not be enough to deal with the homelessness emergency.
The City has been advocating the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario for support as it does not have the mandate or resources to solve the problem on its own.
Housing and health-related support for individuals sleeping rough remain the City's number one government relations and advocacy priorities as the City has found its municipal housing system struggles to successfully house individuals suffering from addiction and severe mental health issues.