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Councillor calls for immediate action on housing as demonstrators camp outside Hamilton City Hall

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Councillor calls for immediate action on housing as demonstrators camp outside Hamilton City Hall

Protestors blanket 'Hamilton' sign outside City Hall on Nov. 23, 2020. (Twiiter/@vilecreature666)

Hamilton Ward 3 Councillor, Nrinder Nann issued a statement, calling for immediate action to address the city’s need for “safe, dignified, affordable and permanent housing.”

“I know what typically happens in the winter for those facing homelessness,” said Nann. “And it is inhumane.”

Some Hamilton residents demonstrated overnight Tuesday in front of City Hall by rolling out sleeping bags and staging a sit-in as part of the “Defund the Police” movement. Protestors are demanding that the City re-invest 50 per cent of the $171-million dollar Hamilton Police Service budget into free and affordable housing.

“To the residents outside City Hall demonstrating overnight because you so deeply value the lives of those who are currently experiencing homelessness, thank you for your empathy and engagement,” added Nann.

The councillor outlined a three-level government solution for Hamilton. The following was taken directly from Nann’s official media release:

  1. Metrolinx Properties on the LRT Corridor
    There are several properties that have been acquired by Meterolinx for the LRT project.
    While the future of higher order transit is finalized, we need a thorough assessment of
    which properties could be repurposed or refurbished to provide housing relief over the
    winter months. The Province can transfer these properties to the city to secure housing.
    We need to fast track these discussions.
  2. Unlock more Federal Housing Funds
    Hamilton received $10.8M to build new permanent affordable housing units, which at
    an estimated cost of $330,000 each will secure 30 or so new units. This is welcome
    news, but wholly insufficient to address the current crisis and will not address the needs
    this winter. We need at least four-times the amount to house the hundred or so
    individuals we know to have resorted to tents during this pandemic.
  3. Housing Alone is not Enough
    Supportive services are the missing link to ensure successful transition to housing. We
    need more public health funds to bridge the gap, during this pandemic and beyond. The
    need has grown during the pandemic and COVID19 recovery dollars ought to be freed
    up to meet these needs.

Nann added that women, non-binary, and trans persons are especially at risk.

“With not enough shelter beds and supports available to them, end up in abusive, exploitive and violent situations. Others find empty, unsafe buildings or structures to sleep in. All face deteriorating health during homelessness.”

While Nann has thrown her support behind the “Defund the Police” demonstration, she concluded by saying,  “Whether you agree with using police service funds and surpluses towards housing or not, there is no denying that we are facing an extreme housing crisis.”

The City of Hamilton entered into a legal battle with advocacy groups over the summer after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of a number of public spaces and social services—leading to homeless encampments forming in parts of the city.

At the end of September, the City announced they were able to come to terms with advocates and devise new protocols for helping encampment residents find housing.

“Both parties agree that encampments are a symptom of a housing crisis that is national in scope and that tents are not a solution to the housing challenges many experience,” the news release said. “The agreement calls for the advocates and the City to continue engaging with provincial health authorities to help people who need more support than municipal shelter and outreach efforts can offer.”

Data provided by the City of Hamilton at the time suggested that those with higher, complex needs make up between 25 and 30 per cent of the city’s homeless population.

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