by The Stinson Elders
Ideally, a councillor’s responsibility is to all of Hamilton’s residents and not just those in the councillor’s ward; Ward 3 is not treated equitably compared to other wards. Three issues need closer scrutiny to ensure that the rules are applied equally across the board. The hunt for a location for Hamilton Alliance for Tiny Shelters (HATS), the placement of Consumption and Treatment services sites (CTSs), and the unequal use of the Radial Separation bylaw (a minimal requirement of 300 meters between Residential Care Facilities (RCFs), Emergency Shelters, etc.) have all been focused on Ward 3.
Ward 3 residents were distressed for months about the location of Hamilton Alliance for Tiny Shelters (HATS) in their community, yet it took only minutes for other wards to know that hosting HATS was optional. In January 2023, when Wards 1 & 2 were back on the table for HATS, Council raised the question of the lack of clarity in HATS’ consultation process. In just minutes of this questioning to the HATS’ president, it was stated that any neighbourhood could turn HATS down. Ward 3, on the other hand, didn’t know for thirteen weeks that HATS wouldn’t pursue their site! Council didn’t agree that it was confusing until Wards 1 and 2 were potential hosts. Ward 3 deserved that same clarity from council.
Many critical issues remain unresolved around Consumption and Treatment services sites (CTSs). Council was unclear about the Federal CTS guidelines on site location. Neighbourhood impact studies were not done. No process existed to verify that public consultations took place. Despite this knowledge, on February 13, 2023, the Board of Health voted unanimously for 746 Barton’s CTSs. They did agree, however, that any outstanding issues must be rectified before selecting a third site. Why do these outstanding issues not matter in Ward 3?! A Simon Fraser University’s study, “The Harm in Harm Reduction” said, “From 2005 to 2015, the number of homeless addicts who had migrated to the Downtown Eastside from outside the neighbourhood increased from 17 % to 52% of the overall population!” On February 3, 2023, Dr. Clair Bodkin, a delegate, advised that people who use drugs will go no further than 10 blocks to a CTSs. With 40% of the opioid deaths occurring in Ward 2, why is there no approved site there? What about the petition signed by 1200 people firmly against the Barton CTS site that is approximately 200 meters from a school? They should have been vetted, not ignored. Hamilton’s only requirement for a CTSs was a willing landlord; it took over two years to find one. The Board of Health’s decision should not be allowed to stand!
Finally, Radial Separation (the minimal distance required between Residential Care Facilities (RCFs), Emergency Shelters, etc.) was invoked as a ByLaw to prevent the concentration of RCFs and shelters within specific areas of the city. The old Cathedral school has been used as an emergency shelter for the last 2 years under the guise of the COVID Emergency. The current occupants are slated to move by the end of March.
Despite reaching out to the city housing department, the Diocese and Good Shepherd, community residents have not been given any information regarding what is happening next at this site. Using 2012 data, Ward 3 had the most RCFs in Hamilton; Stinson, home to Cathedral, had about 50% more than any other Ward 3 neighbourhood. This does not include the soon-to-open Mission Services facility at 400 King Street East, nor the one hundred beds at Old Cathedral. Cathedral abuts the highest density of RCFs in Stinson! It has three within 120 meters: 418 Main East, 65 East Ave., and 90 Emerald Street South. Radial separation was used by Ward 2 to prevent HATS from residing at Sir John A. Macdonald High School. It should now be fairly enforced in Ward 3 with regard to the future plans for Old Cathedral.