Councillors have given initial approval to stepped-up enforcement of homeless encampments in city parks, ahead of an expected increase in their numbers as warmer weather returns.
The planning committee has voted 4-2 in favour of trespass notices within 72 hours of a first complaint and seven-day-a-week enforcement of Hamilton’s no-camping bylaws.
The motion, which was presented by Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr, still requires final approval from Hamilton city council on March 30.
Farr says it’s about establishing consistency with other communities, in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the last two years when encampments popped up within dozens of neighbourhood parks.
Farr adds that impacts can’t be ignored, “the public sex, the drugs, the crimes of all sorts, on and off the encampment sites, the violence, the public urination and defecation, the all-night parties, and there’s lots of those, threats that have occurred, and on and on and on.”
Staff confirm the city has housed about 1,000 homeless individuals over the past two years, but 600 people are currently living in within Hamilton’s shelter system.
Dozens of people appeared virtually before the planning committee on Tuesday to voice their opposition to the enforcement approach.
“Taking care of our most vulnerable neighbours, in a way that we take care of our own friends or family, is a way of showing people what Hamilton is really about,” Jillian Vieira said.
Laura Katz added that “you may think that the people delegating today are radical and harsh, but you must understand that these political views come from the absolute softest caring parts of us.”
“We simply want people to be OK,” said Katz.
Hamilton’s acting director of environmental services has said that city staff and contractors cleaned up 262 encampments at 60 different locations in 2021.
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