Hamilton to spend $950K for new homeless shelter to open by year-end

The City of Hamilton will put $950,000 toward a new shelter, which it said will be geared toward addressing the unique needs of women, Indigenous women, transgender people, and non-binary people who are experiencing homelessness. 

Beds available will 'exceed and replace' the 15 at closed Mountain View shelter

A pile of blankets gathers snow inside a doorway in downtown Hamilton. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The City of Hamilton will put $950,000 towards a new shelter, which it said will be geared toward addressing the unique needs of women, Indigenous women, transgender people, and non-binary people who are experiencing homelessness. 

The shelter, according to the city, "will exceed and replace" the beds that were lost after the Native Women Centre's Mountain View shelter was closed. It had 15 emergency beds available. 

Aisling Higgins, a city spokesperson, said the number of beds will depend on the successful proponent and project. A location hasn't been confirmed yet, she said, but the city did conduct an RFP process. 

The funding will need to be approved as part of the 2021 budget on March 31.

Full or over capacity since 2018

Higgins said the city aims to open the shelter by year-end. 

Gender-based analysis of Hamilton's shelter system, according to a December staff report, shows that beds serving women, transgender people, and non-binary adults have remained at full or over capacity since 2018. 

When the city introduced hotel spaces to expand bed capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said, occupancy rates rose, which "reflected a larger need" in Hamilton. National trends also show shelter beds dedicated to women are "significantly less when compared to beds that are co-ed or dedicated to men exclusively," the report said.

Women, transgender people and non-binary people are systematically underrepresented in homelessness data due to inaccurate measures, Higgins said, which, when combined with less shelter bed access, leads to an exacerbation of hidden homelessness.

A City of Hamilton media release says the shelter will "help meet the demands for beds and supports in the women's homelessness system and ensure services in Hamilton are responsive to a person's individualized experience of homelessness impacted by intersecting aspects of their identities related to race, gender, and sexual orientation."

"Shelter services that are both low-barrier and housing-focused ensure individuals experiencing the highest rates of vulnerability due to physical and mental health, risk of violence, and active substance use are effectively connected to housing options," Higgins said. 

This money will help increase the amount of beds, the city said, but it aims to use funding and programs from all levels of government to maximize its impact. 

The city says it recognizes that shelters are a temporary solution to a larger systemic issue, and is focused on balancing the emergency shelters needed with long-term permanent solutions that get people housed. 

Replace Mountain View beds

In September 2020, a report was presented to the city's emergency and community services committee on the closure of Mountain View, with a request to "replace and enhance gender-specific beds."

Two projects passed the benchmark: one from Good Shepherd Centre and the other from Mission Services.

Staff recommended in December going forward with Good Shepherd: it had three proposals involved in its project, and if they're all successful, the city said it would result in the replacement of the original 15 beds, up to 25 net new emergency shelter beds, 20 net new Violence Against Women (VAW) shelter beds for single women, and a minimum of 65 single room occupancy housing units. 

If that doesn't go forward, the city would proceed with the Mission Services proposal to replace the 15 beds. That would require a levy top up of $225,000 and one-time capital costs of $413,700, staff said. Other money would go toward increasing the existing municipally-funded Portable Housing Allowance program budget.

Higgins said the city is working with a proponent on one of the two viable projects, and more will be shared in the future.


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