Court hearing related to homeless encampments in Hamilton parks resumes Thursday

Hamilton's housing director says an estimated 80 to 90 people are living in the city's parks as winter weather arrives. Lisa Polewski / Global News

It’s back to court on Thursday for the City of Hamilton and five homeless residents and their advocates.

A judge will start hearing witnesses as the city seeks to enforce bylaws against tenting in public spaces, while Hamilton Community Legal Clinic lawyers seek a permanent injunction that would stop the city from dismantling dozens of small encampments.

Wade Poziomka, co-counsel for HamSmart and Keeping Six, says they’re seeking a recognition that some homeless people have nowhere else to go.

Read more: New process introduced to address homeless encampments in Hamilton parks

“There’s no other choice for some individuals,” says Poziomka. “There’s not enough shelter space in the city of Hamilton.”

“The solution for everybody is ultimately to eliminate encampments. The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and their clients aren’t fighting to say we need to have permanent encampments in the city of Hamilton, they’re fighting to say that there’s no other option.”

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People living in the area of downtown homeless encampments made their voices heard on Tuesday.

Several residents delegated before Hamilton’s planning committee, sharing their experiences and calling for tougher enforcement of municipal bylaws.

Read more: Anti-camping bylaws are back in force in Hamilton parks

Since the encampments have been in existence, Julie Lieff says there have been multiple break-ins, vandalism and drug use on her property.

“We feel that it is, in fact, inhumane and cruel to allow people who cannot afford to help themselves the liberty of living on the streets, only to deteriorate further,” says Lieff.

Other neighbouring residents share similar stories of vandalism, needles on the ground and drug use, as well as fighting and yelling.

At last count, staff say there were 44 homeless encampments in Hamilton parks.

City councillors, meanwhile, approved a motion presented by Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr during Tuesday’s meeting, requesting weekly updates about the number of encampments, complaints and bylaw enforcement.

“It’s pretty clear,” says Farr, “that there are a growing amount of citizens that are feeling ignored, that are feeling that their voices are not being heard.”

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