“Pandemic is shining a light on the cracks in our society”: Hamilton City Manager

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An image of Hamilton City Manager Janette Smith in her home kitchen wearing a computer headset during a video conference with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce

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Hamilton City Manager Janette Smith participating in a video conference call with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce on May 11, 2020

Hamilton’s City Manager says the City cannot maintain its present supports for Hamilton’s homeless population in response to COVID-19 without provincial support and funding.

“I don’t think we will go back to the shelter system we had in the past”, City Manager Janette Smith told Hamilton Chamber of Commerce CEO Keanin Loomis during a video conference interview on May 11th.

Smith stated the City is prioritizing finding and placing homeless individuals and families into permanent housing; and utilizing hotel spaces to house people as they seek to be placed into permanent housing.

“Ontario is the only province where health and social services are on the property tax levy”, Smith said of the need for a comprehensive review of the relationship between municipalities and the province in the delivery of services and how they are funded.

Smith says the City will need to increase the square footage of congregate settings such as homeless shelters and long-term care homes to promote physical distancing in the future to prevent the spread of COVID and other respiratory issues.

The previously common practice of staffing long-term care with part-time staff who work in various facilities has temporarily been prohibited by the province, with care staff who used to have to work part-time in multiple facilities to make ends meet now working in one facility full-time until the province revokes the emergency regulation.

Smith expects that full-time staff will become a new normal.

The City is preparing for another potential health crisis this summer as temperatures increase and many Hamiltonians living in housing units without air conditioning will need cooling centres or other means to relieve heat stress. Heat stress can be fatal.

Many of the City facilities which operate as cooling centres will have decreased capacity due to physical distancing requirements, or may not be able to implement the necessary physical and ventilation changes to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory illness.

A “hot topic” is how Smith describes the discussion about if splash pads and swimming pools will be able to operate this summer. (It is not clear if she intended for a pun in the statement) Nobody is clear how pools will operating with physical distancing requirements, or if the City could afford to operate with significantly lowered capacity.

Smith says the City is planning for social supports to continue to be needed for months ahead, including things such as the outdoor portable toilet and hand washing station set up in front of Copps Coliseum.

The full video of Smith’s interview with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is available on the Chamber’s webpage along with all the Chamber’s other interviews: https://www.hamiltonchamber.ca/covid19/live-qa-open-forum-sessions/

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First published: May 19, 2020
Last edited: May 19, 2020
Author: Joey Coleman

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