Health issues and affordability exacerbate homelessness in Hamilton, city survey finds – Hamilton
The city’s latest survey of homeless people suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic and health issues are the biggest barriers preventing many people from keeping or obtaining housing in Hamilton.
the Punctual Connection Survey (PiTC)which conducted 545 surveys over the five-day period in mid-November, also said housing affordability, low income, landlord-tenant disputes, poor housing conditions and discrimination were other key factors that kept people away from stable housing.
“Forty percent of respondents said they had a chronic disease or health condition,” city staff said in their summary of the PiTC research.
“About 270 respondents had visited the ER in the past 12 months, with a cumulative total of 787 ER visits.”
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Compared to the last two surveys, the 2022 edition saw a shift in its demographic profile with twice as many (53%) people identifying as women, up from 32% in 2018 and 28% in 2016.
About 23% of all respondents identified as Indigenous or having Indigenous ancestry, while 10% identified as 2SLGBTQ+.
Staff researched a greater number of people staying outdoors (60) in unsheltered locations and in encampments (35) for 2022 compared to the previous two initiatives. In 2016, 34 survey respondents were in unprotected and/or interrogated camps, while only 25 were in the 2018 study.
A majority of respondents were between the ages of 31 and 49 in the 2022 version and were identified as “staying alone” when surveyed.
Almost 78% of respondents indicated that they had lived in Hamilton for more than a year and indicated that they needed better income support to meet their housing affordability needs.
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The survey was co-coordinated by the Housing Services Division of Hamilton and the local Indigenous community through the Coalition of Hamilton Indigenous Leadership (CHIL) with the goal of ensuring city resources are used “effectively and effectively” to prevent and end homelessness.
City outreach programs interacted with more than 565 people in encampments between January 2020 and October 2021, housing 81 through support programs and finding some kind of shelter for 430 people.
In January, a study by two inner-city doctors suggested that people living on the streets in Hamilton can expect to have a lower than average life expectancy, mainly due to drug overdoses.
The report, “Deaths in Hamilton’s homeless populationsaid at least 19 people without homes died in the city over a six-month period in 2021.
“The most alarming statistic we found in the data…was that the average age at death was 36,” Wiwcharuk told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.
“That compares to the life expectancy of the average Hamiltonian, which is 81 years, according to Statistics Canada.”
Don Seymour, executive director of Wesley Urban Ministries, told Global News in late February that the study likely doesn’t capture the true plight of homeless people, suggesting more than 19 a year die each year.
“A lot of people probably need years of rehabilitation and medical treatment, and that just doesn’t exist,” Seymour said.
“It’s not just a homeless crisis, it’s a health crisis…we don’t even know how many people are dying.”
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Seymour suggests the city may need to come to terms with “co-existence” with the homeless and embark on an initiative to engage those who are resigned to a life on the streets of Hamilton.
He says choosing outreach workers over police in the conversation as well as punishment sites where tents can be set up might be options the city will have to consider other than simple shelters.
“These are consistently full every night,” Seymour said.
“These are necessary places, but many people cannot or do not want to use the shelters.”
In January, city councilors approved a plan to hold a roundtable to bring together experts, frontline workers and the homeless, in hopes of closing service gaps and ending encampments in Hamilton.
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