Hamilton’s large homeless encampments to be gradually removed over the next week

A picture of a former homeless encampment on Ferguson Avenue North near Barton Street East in Hamilton, Ont. Lisa Polewski / Global News

The dismantling of Hamilton’s large homeless encampments is about to begin.

The city’s general manager of emergency and community services confirms an injunction stopping the city from removing tents has officially been lifted by the courts.

Paul Johnson says it will take about a week to be move people to other suitable facilities.

Read more: Agreement reached to end litigation over Hamilton’s homeless encampments

“The work that we’re doing now is ensuring that our outreach teams are on the street, working with individuals to identify those of high acuity, but also those who need to get into shelters and hotels,” Johnson says.

He adds that the initial focus in on dismantling tents on Ferguson Avenue North and outside of FirstOntario Centre, “because those are actually now prohibited areas for encampments.”

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Read more: Ontario extends injunction blocking removal of Hamilton homeless encampments

An injunction, successfully filed by a group of community advocates, took effect on July 30, which temporarily restricted the city’s authority to enforce bylaws that prohibit camping on public property.

The city and those advocates, including Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT, announced on Sept. 30 that they had reached an agreement to end the litigation and the injunction was lifted by a Superior Court on Oct 6.

Read more: Spike in Hamilton homeless encampments a ‘difficult challenge,’ says city

Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins says the public’s “anxiety” over encampments will not be eliminated entirely under terms agreed to by the city.

He said that “the 25 or 30 per cent of people who fall into the category of high acuity, we will allow those people to continue to reside in parks for an indefinite period of time.”

Dr. Jill Wiwcharuk and Lisa Nussey, representatives for Keeping Six and HAMSMaRT, have countered that the agreement “recognizes the challenges that the people we love and care for face in accessing shelter and housing.”

“We look forward to putting this legal battle behind us and moving forward in supporting people who use drugs and those experiencing homelessness.”

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Read more: Man charged with alleged assault on garbage collector near Hamilton encampment: police

With the emergence of COVID-19, the City of Hamilton says it has invested over $1 million for the operation of additional emergency shelter spaces in 2020, in addition to the $7.6 million budgeted in the 2020 municipal operating budget.

In order to respond to the increase in the size and number of encampments, the city adds that additional funding and staff time has been required for security, waste collection and outreach, as well as increased calls for service for paramedics and police.

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