In Hamilton there are thousands of people on waiting lists for affordable housing. Hundreds of homeless people on our streets. It is a crisis that has been brewing for decades. Every single level of government has given short shrift to the creation of affordable housing and the elimination of homeless over the past forty years. The most chronically homeless will need years of support and rehabilitation through our health and social services systems. Yet the intensive clinical housing services they need are virtually non-existent. Many die waiting for services.
Solutions are needed and a committed group of volunteers has come forward with a viable solution. Given the magnitude of the crisis one would think it would be given an enthusiastic fast track. Instead the exact opposite is happening. Politicians question the viability of the solution and drag their feet. Academics undermine the solution saying it is less than adequate. Many citizens in local neighbourhoods dealing with homelessness see the solution as increasing not ameliorating the problem.
This is what Hamilton Alliance for Tiny Shelters (HATS) has been dealing with since their inception. These volunteers has been working incredibly hard for over a year to create a Tiny Shelter community. They have consulted with politicians, housing providers and homelessness service providers. More importantly they included persons of lived experience in the information gathering process. They have also researched and consulted with Tiny Shelter communities across the country. This is not a fly by the seat of your pants group. They are looking to create viable solutions to alleviate the homelessness crisis. Yet enthusiasm is conspicuously
My own organization, Wesley sees the value of citizen driven community development. Community development is in our DNA as Wesley began in much the same as HATS nearly 70 years ago. Committed citizens attempting to address serious community issues. When Wesley saw what HATS was attempting to do we sought to support and partner with them. To this end the Wesley Board authorized funds to support HATS with case management for a one-year pilot. In addition we sit at the table in an advisory capacity and have supplied the HATS group with policies and procedures and operational expertise. They are addressing an important need in Hamilton and creating an critically needed service in continuum of community based supports.
The clock is ticking with the worst parts of winter still ahead and HATS would like to be supporting people by December in Tiny Shelters. The plan is to support ten people initially, eventually enlarging the community to twenty people – as the model develops and more funds become available. This will not solve the problem, but it will solve the problem for ten and later twenty citizens of our community. It is a start.
Our community needs to roll out the red carpet for HATS and any others coming up with solutions to address this crisis. The City of Hamilton needs to expedite this process so people are given supports sooner rather than later. People that are homeless and on the streets can’t wait another winter for access to a roof over their heads or supports to stay there. No one should have to die from homelessness. Hamilton pulled out all the stops during Covid to protect the community. It is time to pull out all the stops to address homelessness. If we don’t try innovative solutions, we are continuing to add to the problem that has existed for decades. Hamilton has an opportunity to be a leader in this space. We hope the new Council will provide the political leadership that is needed to ensure every person in our city is housed and supported.