A housing services idea seeking the creation of sanctioned encampment zones in Hamilton, Ont., has been sent back to the drawing board and further study.
City councillors Wednesday voted to keep current protocols that favour enforcement to deal with some 100 homeless encampments currently in the city after rejecting a recommendation allowing for unlimited groupings of up to five tents in parks and other city properties.
The plan called for zoned sites which some staffers suggested would provide much-needed shelter while reducing potential noise complaints, garbage issues and conflicts that exist in the city’s encampments.
Ward 2 Coun. Cameron Kroetsch characterized the potential measure as “way too restrictive” and didn’t support the convention the way it was written.
“I’ve heard from people … from folks who are advocating for them, the game we’re playing now is like, where? Where can someone go?” Kroetsch said.
“The answer is like practically nowhere, and that’s what we’re left with.”
Ward 5’s Matt Francis, who praised the “incredible passion” his colleagues undertook in trying to alleviate homelessness, admitted he believes enforcement “is the most effective approach.”
“I’ve heard from my constituents and they’ve made it abundantly clear to me it’s beyond inappropriate for us to allow encampments in our parks, near our children’s playgrounds and in our ravines,” Francis remarked.
The proposal was brought forward via a pair of sessions to create a protocol dealing with Hamilton’s growing homeless population, now estimated to be around 1,600 people.
The idea allowed for three-by-three-metre areas for individual tents with a total area for five tents not exceeding 45 square metres.
Tents would not be allowed within 50 metres of another encampment, a school or a public space like child-care centres, pools or playgrounds.
Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark said he believed sanctioned encampments would “just lead to even more encampments” and potentially more “hatred” directed at encampment residents.
“I agree completely with my colleagues and my staff that we should be expediting housing applications for the homeless,” Clark suggested.
Staff are being asked to further study the idea of larger, sanctioned encampments where the city would provide supports and services like hydro and washrooms.
That report, expected to include public consultation with an end-of-June deadline, is set to come before councillors during the second week of August.
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