New encampment plan rejected by Hamilton council, citing human rights issues


Published May 18, 2023 at 2:54 pm

A new housing protocol that would have permitted legal encampments in parks and at other City-owned properties in Hamilton was rejected by City councillors on Wednesday (May 17).

The matter was returned to the City’s General Issues Committee (GIC) for further examination, specifically related to the human rights aspects of the proposed “housing first” bylaw.

City council members also voted to retain existing protocols that prioritize enforcement when addressing homeless encampments currently present in Hamilton.

City staff had put forward a proposal suggesting the establishment of sanctioned encampments with specific regulations for homeless individuals. In case the rules were not adhered to, the City would resort to intensified enforcement measures, potentially involving collaboration with Hamilton Police.

Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch said the proposed protocol was “extremely restrictive.”

“The direction here was impeccably clear, but then the result is something different and now we’re back to a kind of square one-ish place; in my heart, anyway, that’s what I feel,” he added.

The councillor also took to social media to further elaborate on his rejection of the protocol.

According to the GIC, under the tabled protocol, a maximum of five tents would be allowed to form a group and each group of tents must maintain a minimum distance of 50 metres from any other group, schools, public spaces or government buildings.

Furthermore, the tents themselves would be restricted to a maximum size of three-by-three metres.

The proposal also includes an extensive list of prohibited locations for setting up tents, such as near highways, sidewalks, fire routes, permanent structures, community gardens, greenhouses, pathways, sidewalks, parking lots and under bridges.

Ward 5 Councillor Matt Francis, meanwhile, feels enforcement is the “most effective approach” to deal with illegal encampment sites.

“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 said.

The GIC is yet to finalize several crucial aspects, such as the specific locations for these encampments, the installation of fencing and proximity of the camps to health-care facilities, restrooms and sources of clean water.

The encampment proposal was rejected 10 to 3 and staff were asked to incorporate public input into their next report by the end of June.
Councillors will then discuss the matter again in early August.
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