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City to return to pre-pandemic enforcement of camping bylaws

HAMILTON, ON - City Council has voted to repeal a bylaw enforcement protocol that permitted some individuals to camp in public spaces for up to 14 days as the protocol has been deemed ineffective.

In its place, the City will return to pre-pandemic enforcement levels that prevents anyone from doing any camping on City property, including park areas. Renewed regular enforcement will begin in approximately three weeks. Prior to regular enforcement resuming, the City will continue to offer supports and alternatives to those living in encampments.

While enforcement levels will change, the City of Hamilton remains committed to taking an individualized approach to housing by connecting those experiencing homelessness with the available community resources and supports, including the variety of options available through the City’s housing continuum.

Following today’s Council decision, the City will return to the pre-pandemic approach to services, which includes continued dedication to helping those sleeping rough find safe and humane options while enforcing its bylaws prohibiting camping on public property. The City’s approach takes into consideration the safety and well-being of individuals living outdoors, as well as the broader community needs, including access to green space for safe outdoor recreation.

Quick Facts

  • From January 2020 to June 2021, in collaboration with our community partners, the Housing Services Division has helped approximately 440 homeless individuals and families find permanent housing solutions.
  • In 2020 over 700 households from Hamilton’s Access to Housing (ATH) wait list were housed in rent-geared to income units, in the private market using portable housing benefits, and from intensive case management and Rapid Rehousing programs. In 2019, approximately 595 households were permanently housed from the ATH wait list.
  • Hamilton’s housing system receives contributions from all levels of government and invests approximately $120 million annually into the housing and homelessness system, including a $64 million municipal contribution in 2021.
  • On June 9, 2021, Hamilton Council approved further interventions in its post-COVID-19 adaptation and transition plan for Hamilton’s housing and homelessness system which includes a one-time investment of $2 million for housing allowances for clients of City-funded Intensive Case Management programs. This investment will provide 93 individuals or households with housing allowances that support their housing stability over the next four years.
  • In 2021, the City committed an additional $950,000 in annual funding (year over year) towards a new shelter and portable housing benefit focused on addressing the unique needs of women, Indigenous women, trans-feminine, trans-masculine, and non-binary people experiencing homelessness.
  • In 2021/2022 at least 400 new affordable housing units in Hamilton will break ground or be completed of due to strategic investment on the part of the municipal, provincial and federal government.
  • Since the beginning of the pandemic through the Government of Ontario’s Social Service Relief funds the City directed $37 million into the housing and homelessness system response ensuring shelter operators could enact important COVID-19 protocols to reduce the risk of transmission for shelter clients and staff. These funds also ensured community drop-in programs could expand and maintain services for vulnerable residents from meals, showers, harm reduction supplies, and overnight access drop-in services.

Background

The City has seen an increase in the number of people sleeping rough in public spaces and in several City parks since the beginning of the pandemic. A court injunction was imposed on July 30, 2020 that temporarily restricted the City’s authority to enforce bylaws that prohibit camping on public property. On October 7, 2020 following the lifting of the injunction, an understanding between community advocates and the City led to a formalized protocol for working with those sleeping rough in the community. The understanding 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 individuals with complex needs and requiring more support than municipal funded shelters and outreach efforts can offer.

Additional Resources

Quote

“Everyone deserves a roof over their head and a safe place to call home. The pandemic has underscored the increasing need for access to safe, humane, and affordable housing. We are committed to meeting the needs of unsheltered and unhoused residents through continuity of service while supporting long-term housing stability for vulnerable residents. Parks need to remain a safe place where all residents can enjoy and access outdoor spaces and amenities. Ensuring the safety and well-being of all residents remains a top priority for Hamilton City Council.”

- Mayor Fred Eisenberger