Hamilton bumping overnight shelter spaces to 90 as part of its Winter Response Strategy

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Published December 1, 2023 at 5:06 pm

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Hamilton has added an extra ten overnight warming spaces and offered a few more details on its Winter Response Strategy, which goes into effect today.

The City announced Tuesday that 80 overnight warming spaces for the unhoused will be provided this winter and that number has now been augmented by ten, with 45 for men and 45 for women and the trans and non-binary population.

The warming bus, which can hold about 20 people and cost just over $217,000 for the season, will operate nightly from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., with onboard support through social service staff for all populations.

Participating agencies can also call for the bus if they’re providing support to someone who is planning to access the bus at a certain stop. The bus will stop at designated locations near emergency shelters and drop-ins.

The City is also offering 100 day-time drop-in spaces (all populations) and extended hours of operation at three recreation centres to act as warming spaces. There will also be extended hours at the Hamilton Public Library Central location to act as a warming space (all populations) as well.

Two parks with 24-hour access to washroom facilities – J.C. Beemer Park (82 Victoria Ave. N; and Corktown Park (175 Ferguson Ave. S) have also been identified as part of the winter response program.

With these additions, the Council-approved budget has now been fully allocated for the program.

The steps are part of the City’s winter response strategy to better address the needs of its unhoused residents during the winter months and are being implemented in an effort to provide a more “robust and effective response” to community needs, especially those living unhoused, said Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath.

“Our Winter Response Strategy reflects our commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of unhoused individuals during the winter season,” she said when the program was first announced, adding this week that Council “appreciates the collaboration” from community partners “who stepped up” so that these services and supports could be delivered to the unhoused population in Hamilton.

“We’re committed to ensuring those who need more supports and options to keep warm during the harsh winter months will have those available to them.”

The City of Hamilton’s winter response program, the Mayor added, is consistent with programs offered in similar Canadian municipalities such as Toronto, London and Edmonton with additional made-in-Hamilton solutions.

The strategy, which will cost taxpayers $1,499,588, funded through the tax stabilization reserve, is not tied to the City’s existing cold alert system. The shelter options will be available December 1 to March 31, regardless of the temperature outdoors.

Last year, 50 people stayed outside during winter months, the highest on record to date and City staff expects this number to be “much greater” this winter.

For more information on the winter response strategy, including shelter locations and additional services, visit www.hamilton.ca/WinterResponse.

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