By Kathy Renwald
In the middle of August, North End residents learned that Strachan Street between James and Hughson would be the location of a new project to house the homeless. The housing is described in a variety of ways – tiny homes, tiny shelters, and tiny sheds.
Up to 25 of them will be located on a city owned parking lot on Strachan, and will be paid for and managed by the Hamilton Alliance for Tiny Shelters (HATS)
The announcement caught many off guard. Residents for sure, and how many others we are unsure, because finger pointing of who knew what when has already started.
While there will always be charges of NIMBY-ism, there are hard facts that support the unsuitability of the site. Yes, people support the concept but in a place it has a chance to work.
The HATS organization have 14 criteria for a successful location for Tiny Shelters – Strachan street ticks few boxes-it’s paved, close to support services, and has some shade. Otherwise the HATS people have always preferred a location NOT in a residential neighbourhood, not in the downtown core and be up to two acres in size.
In a very limited time residents near the Strachan Street location expressed their reasoned concerns with the site to council but the project was approved as part of a wider set of policy changes known as encampment protocols. Included in that document is also a provision allowing encampments in parks – it comes with a set of regulations and measurements and numbers that are best viewed on the city website.
There are already about 30 tents on Strachan between Bay and John streets. Residents living nearby detailed to the city that open drug use, public sex acts, discarded needles and garbage accompany the encampments. The city says the encampments will be cleared out when the Tiny Shelter project begins. It’s unclear when that would be, but the pressure is on to get some or all of the units built before winter.
As described on the HATS website the cluster of 25 Tiny Shelters would be fenced, lit and entry allowed only through a gate. Security would be on site. Whether the small Strachan site would have room for items on their “wish list” that make the village look less like a security compound such as gardens for flowers and food crops is unknown.
The Jamesville Development Consortium developers of the Jamesville project, which will include affordable housing units also wrote the city asking this issued be deferred to allow consultation. They called the decision to locate on Strachan a “short-term, rushed solution not worth putting the future of the community at risk without proper consultation.” That appeared to carry no weight at council.
Questions about the possibility of a CN appeal of the shelters are unanswered and questions about normal zoning regulations being bypassed remain unexplained at least in terms that 99 percent of the population can understand.
Having watched the lengthy meetings at city hall that led to their decision my impression was city staff felt Strachan Street was an inadequate location, weakly endorsed but offered up as a band-aid, temporary solution.
Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch who supports the Strachan Street location says-now the neighbourhood will be consulted. To find out when and where meetings are to take place, he suggests following social media, and look for notices in mailboxes.
The Bay Observer at https://bayobserver.ca has written extensively on this story.
For more information look for updates on the city website:
Encampment protocols –
Cameron Kroetsch-answers to questions-