Ward 2 City Councillor Jason Farr issued a statement late Wednesday evening in response to a number of emails sent to Hamilton expressing concern about plans announced earlier on Wednesday to clear two homelessness encampments in the Downtown Hamilton area.
In his statement, Farr says the City is offering those living in donated tents housing, shelter, or hotel space.
Farr writes that he did not direct city staff to impose the deadline of Friday July 31 for the dismantling of camps. This follows a Ward 2 resident, who wishes the encampments removed, posting a email from Farr in which the Councillor wrote that if staff don’t remove the camps “I will be issuing a motion of council to do so”.
“Since the pandemic began, over 80 individuals living in encampments have worked with our staff and our outreach partners to take advantage of the options we provided”, Farr writes.
Two encampments have been the focus of attention during the past few weeks: one on Ferguson Avenue North between Cannon Street and Barton Street, and the other in front of Copps Coliseum along York Boulevard between Bay Street and Park Avenue.
The challenges of behaviour and waste have sparked many complaints to City Hall from some nearby residents and businesses.
“As encampments get larger, the problems unfortunately associated with these sites become more acute and more prevalent”, writes Farr. “I receive a growing number of concerns from commuters of all forms, pedestrians, business people and property-owners. Each have their own stories and while all are sympathetic to the homelessness issues, they are also scared and anxious and increasingly requesting that we enforce the law(s)”.
(Personal aside, I’ve had to clean human feces in front of my office, in a spot which offers some degree of privacy for individuals who have no access to washrooms)
Farr is critical of the The Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team, a group of medical professional, for distributing tents to homeless individuals.
Ward 14 Councillor Terry Whitehead, who is a friend of Farr’s and the two golf together, took to Twitter late Wednesday expressing his disagreement with calls to not dismantle the encampments.
“You are a Dr however you are not a planner. There is a rational why the city has comprehensive zoning. Skid Row just started a with a couple of tents check it now, slippery slope. This approach is anything but compasionate ask the parents and community neighbours”, Whitehead tweeted at physician Dr. Robin Lennox.
Whitehead was responding to Dr. Lennox tweeting Wednesday afternoon that “As a physician and #HamOnt [Hamilton] resident, I urge the city to reconsider its plan to dismantle encampments. This will not solve the #homelessness crisis and will only further harm and marginalize our homeless population”.
(Whitehead continued to tweet angrily at others Wednesday night)
Farr says he is “keeping an open mind” on creating a sanctioned site for encampments “after having visited London, Ontario to see first hand how this is achieved”.
“While this short-term possible solution is not without its challenges (as I have witnessed in London) and still does not address the larger issue that sleeping rough is less safe and humane than housing, shelter and hotel options, I understand that there are some individuals who still prefer to camp. Clearly there are some well meaning organizations that appear interested in going beyond the current supports they currently offer (tent donations and other necessities) and they appear ready and qualified to operate such an area.”
Separately, community groups filed an urgent motion at the Ontario Superior Court on Wednesday seeking an injunction to stop the City from dismantling encampments.
“HAMSMaRT and Keeping Six, along with several residents from encampments, are represented by the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and Wade Poziomka, a human rights lawyer with Ross & McBride LLP”, the group’s press release states.
Production Details v. 1.0.0 First published: July 30, 2020 Last edited: July 30, 2020 Author: Joey Coleman Edit Record v. 1.0.0 original version