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Hamilton bylaw says ‘people left voluntarily’ as encampment at Woodlands Park shrinks

A vast majority of tents in an encampment off of Barton Street cleared out Thursday amid a new encampment protocol which went into effect across Hamilton in late August. Global News Hamilton

Several tents at an encampment in central Hamilton have cleared out just weeks after new protocols went into effect setting limits on how many unhoused can reside on city property.

As of Friday afternoon, there were just a few tents left at Woodlands Park on Barton Street at Wentworth North, days after a city-led outreach team and municipal bylaw served notice to residents the site was non-compliant.

“Yes, people left voluntarily,” manager of Licensing and Bylaw Services, Dan Smith, said.

“Since the ratification of the new encampment protocol, the city has gained voluntary compliance on the notices that have been issued to date.”

Danielle Blake, manager of the city’s Housing Focused Street Outreach, says 33 trespass notices were issued to residents at the park a week ago and that since the start of a revised encampment protocol on August 25, some 137 trespass notices have been issued at 17 locations across Hamilton.

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“Parks staff had attended the area earlier this week for routine cleanup and noticed residents gathering their belongings and (were) moving on from the site,” Blake said of the Woodlands encampment.

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In mid-August, councillors approved a protocol that allows just five tents on public land as long as they’re not within 100 metres of playgrounds, schools and other sensitive uses and meet certain health and safety requirements.

Groupings of five tents will have to be at least 50 metres apart from each other, 10 metres away from private property and 50 metres from park amenities.

Prior to the Woodlands departures, Hamilton police noted an increase in violence at the park with a stabbing in July, a shooting in August that sent a man to hospital with life-threatening injuries, and robbery inside a tent on Wednesday.

By the end of the day Thursday, most occupants at Woodlands left the area, but Smith said the outreach team was not present and could not confirm where residents may have gone.

As of June, city staff say more than 1,700 people were without a home in Hamilton. About 160 are believed to be living in some sort of encampment.

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