Hamilton's homeless encampments will stay put — for now


The Ontario Superior Court ruled on Friday (August 7) that Hamilton's homeless encampments can stay put, for now.

Wade Poziomka, the human rights lawyer in Hamilton representing HAMSMaRT and KeepingSix in a battle against the City of Hamilton to leave the encampments alone, shared the news via Twitter.

"This morning the Superior Court extended the injunction preventing the involuntary removal of individuals from homeless encampments," Poziomka, of Ross & McBride LLP, wrote in the Tweet.

The injunction against the forcible removal of the encampments has been extended until at least early September.

Since the pandemic forced the closure of a number of public spaces and social services, tent communities have been popping up in parts of the city.

Several of them were dismantled by the city earlier this spring/early summer. The ones that are currently under scrutiny are those in front of the FirstOntario Centre and in the North End on Ferguson.

Advocates have been locked in a battle with the city for weeks to prevent the dislocation of people living in the encampments

"We continue to push for a human rights based approach to encampments & encampment residents in the City!" Tweeted the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic when sharing the news of the extended injunction.

While the City of Hamilton undertook extensive measures to ensure that there were safe places for people to go during the pandemic -- a men's shelter was created at FirstOntario Centre, and hygiene stations were erected across the city's downtown -- for many individuals living on the streets, this isn't a solution.

Early last month, at a council meeting, the director of Hamilton's emergency response centre, Paul Johnson, noted that they would be increasing efforts to address the issue of encampments. In fact, a task force was formed to help tackle the issue and to try and coax residents of the encampments into shelter or some form of social housing.

In an opinion piece penned by Poziomka and published in the Hamilton Spectator earlier this week, he outlined the reason why these encampments are important for the people who reside in them.

He noted that while Hamilton has a number of shelters and a dedicated group of people working towards bettering the lives of the city's marginalized and homeless, the shelter system isn't always an answer for people dealing with a variety of crises (ie: mental health or addiction issues).

In an editorial from one of the organizers of the Hamilton Social Medicine Support Team (HAMSMaRT), Dr. Tim O'Shea, and published on Raise the Hammer on Friday, he expresses the same concern that the shelter system can be seen as a solution for everyone and in some cases, tents are the safest places for them to be.

For now, Hamilton City Council has called for a staff report on the issue, which is expected later in August and at that point, more will be known on the future of the so-called 'tent cities.'

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