Hamilton to begin dismantling large tent encampments throughout city

The city says it will get everyone into emergency shelter or permanent housing, but those on the ground are skeptical.

The city says it will find shelter or permanent housing for everyone, but those on the ground are skeptical

Tents line Ferguson Avenue North near Barton Street in Hamilton. It's one of the city's largest homeless encampments. Now, it is being removed. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The large tent encampments throughout Hamilton will begin coming down today.

The city said in a release it has focused on helping encampment residents with moving into emergency housing options over the past week.

Ferguson Avenue North is closed between Barton and Cannon streets, and will stay closed until noon Friday as the city begins moving people.

On Friday, the focus will be on encampments near city hall, Whitehern and the FirstOntario Centre.

This move comes as part of an agreement reached last week with the Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team (Hamsmart), Keeping Six, the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and Ross & McBride LLP. That group obtained the injunction on July 30 to prevent the city from abruptly dismantling encampments. 

The city noted it has spent money for increased security, waste collection and outreach efforts near the tents.

Roughly 70 people living in the encampments have been relocated into hotels, shelters or permanent housing over the past months, the city says.

Despite this, Lisa Nussey from Keeping Six worries the city won't have enough space for everyone in the encampments.

"We're focused today on ensuring people aren't harmed through this process. We have not got any indication from the city they intend to have a disruptive approach today and we're grateful for that, " she said.

"I know the city is saying they have alternatives for everybody, but that is not our experience on the ground, and we expect people will be dispersed today."

The city says it has 436 emergency shelter beds.