Hamilton councilor calls for tougher encampment enforcement

By Nathan Sager

Published on March 18, 2022 at 10:04 p.m.

Homeless people living in tents have become commonplace in Hamilton in 2020. City Council voted on August 9 this year to reinstate its pre-pandemic enforcement of a camping bylaw. (InTheHammer file photo)

A downtown Hamilton councilor proposes increasing local encampment enforcement.

Last August, Hamilton’s elected leaders voted to return to enforcing bylaws that prohibit homeless people from camping on municipal property, including parks. A motion that Ward 2 Con. Jason Farr will present at a planning committee meeting on Tuesday (March 22) that the measures need to be expanded as the “number of encampments has more than doubled from around 20 to over 40 following the resolution of the August 9, 2021, with many encampments entrenched in public parks for months.

Over 600 homeless families and individuals in Hamilton have been housed during the COVID-19 pandemic. A court injunction led to a year-long pause in encampment evictions at the start of the pandemic. But the city gained the legal upper hand when a new injunction filing failed in court last fall.

A camp can only be removed when the city’s Municipal Law Enforcement (MLE) department receives a complaint.
Farr’s motion appears to be aimed at seeing if it’s possible to have tighter timelines for the six-step “encampment process” that staff developed late last summer.

The meeting is at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Under the rule, Hamilton residents would have until noon Monday to request to delegate to the committee, either in writing or by video link.

Farr’s motion asks city staff to:

Complete their activities as part of the campsite process, including notifying the Hamilton Police Service that a trespassing notice has been issued, within 12 to 72 hours of staff receiving the first campsite complaint not allowed in a park or public place in the city;
Apply the camp process 7 days a week;
Report any impact on staffing feasibility/service levels to the board at its March 30 meeting, eight days after its introduction.

The encampment process includes a street team meeting with people who are homeless and rough sleepers. Evictions are carried out by officers of the Hamilton Police Service. Housing advocates and social justice campaigners said the protocol criminalizes poverty and being homeless.

Last fall, it culminated in violence at JC Beemer Park and Hamilton Central Police Station over a three-day period in late November. A predominantly black group of six housing advocates in the Hamilton area have been arrested and charged in two separate protests. After weeks of outcry, their charges were dropped, with an agreement to sign a peace bond.

(Graphic via City of Hamilton.)

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