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City encampment bylaw in effect starting today

Hamilton, ON – With the lifting of a Superior Court injunction, the City of Hamilton will again be enforcing its bylaws prohibiting encampments on public property.

The injunction took effect on July 30 and was lifted on October 6. It temporarily restricted the City’s authority to enforce bylaws that prohibit camping on public property.

The lifting of the injunction follows an agreement by community advocates and the City. This agreement addressed the enforcement protocol for City bylaws and included a joint commitment to continue to engage with provincial health authorities to encourage further investments to help people with complex needs who need more support than municipal funded shelters and outreach efforts can offer.

With the emergence of COVID-19, the City of Hamilton has invested over $1 million for the operation of additional emergency shelter spaces in 2020, in addition to the $7.6 million budgeted in the 2020 municipal operating budget. The City has also committed to continue funding additional shelter spaces in 2021.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the City has seen an increase in the number of people sleeping rough in public spaces, including outside the First Ontario Centre, along Ferguson Avenue and in several City parks.

In order to respond to the increase in encampments, additional funding and staff time was required for security, waste collection and outreach. The City also experienced increased calls for service for paramedics and police.

According to City statistics, persons with complex needs, also known as people with high acuity, make up 25 to 30 per cent of the current encampment populations and eight per cent of the homeless population overall.

As per the agreement with community stakeholders, the City continues to take a personalized approach to individuals with complex needs when enforcing City bylaws. For those currently encamped in now prohibited areas they will be working with outreach staff to move to shelter within the next seven days.

Moving forward, the agreement outlines the protocol for working with those sleeping rough in the community. Those in prohibited areas will need to move immediately. Those with lower acuity will engage with outreach workers on a plan to move to shelter within 14 days. Those with high acuity will be engaged on an ongoing basis to look for appropriate accommodations and supports, but may remain on the street longer than 14 days, until such time that appropriate supports can be located. High acuity people who remain in encampments are subject to a number of restrictions, including limiting encampments to five people, avoiding sidewalks, roadways and boulevards, not encamped at designated heritage properties and being at least 50 metres away from playgrounds, schools or childcare centres.

“The City has remained committed to the health and safety of all residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts include aiding our most vulnerable residents who are sleeping rough to find safer and more humane housing options. The City will continue to work one-to-one with individuals sleeping rough to connect them with the required services. This includes working with our community partners to encourage greater availability of health care resources for individuals with complex needs." - Mayor Fred Eisenberger

 

Background

Emergency Housing and Additional City Supports for Shelters and Encampment Areas:

Emergency Shelter Service Provision - COVID-19 Supports (2020)

City Emergency Shelter Services Resources Allocated in Budget Additional Resources Allocated for COVID-19 Percentage Increase
Emergency Shelter Beds 341 95 28%
Funding (Operations) $7.6 million $1 million 14%

Increases in City Service Provision to Encampment Areas During COVID-19

City Services Area of Service Time Frame Total $ or % Increase Compared With Previous Year
Paramedic FOC Encampment April 1 to August 26 275 86%
Paramedic Ferguson Encampment July 1 to August 26 81 13%
Additional Waste Removal and Security FOC and Ferguson Encampment areas April to August N/A Approximately $60,000