Time and time again, Hamilton’s houseless are victims of structural neglect 

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Without prompt governmental action, overwhelmed shelters and exhausted support services continue to push houseless Hamiltonians, including students, to the cold winter streets 

It’s no news that Hamilton’s houseless population is surging.  

For the past few years, headlines have reported and warned of the dramatic growth in the number of unhoused Hamiltonians. Yet, governmental action taken to support these individuals in the face of other critical crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating inflation, has seen little improvement.  

For one, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated social inequalities and resulted in an increase in unhoused families and individuals.  

Alongside the hardships imposed by the pandemic, Hamilton’s housing crisis has seen no improvements in the past year as renters, like McMaster students, continue to battle sky-high prices.  

Currently, rent is so unaffordable that post-secondary students make up a third of the resident population at the Covenant House Toronto shelter. With the unaffordability of housing here in Hamilton, it’s no doubt that students in our communities are facing similar circumstances, putting their well-being and education at stake.   

These issues together, compounded by the current financial state of the nation, have made the sheer cost of living for an average Canadian ridiculously unaffordable. In fact, Hamilton is now ranked the third least affordable city in all of North America.  

To make matters worse, Hamilton's network of homeless shelters and drop-in locations are overwhelmed as their resources are dwindling whilst the federal government’s half-million dollar Expanded Winter Response Fund has been scrapped this year.  

The ongoing threat of COVID-19 and the closure of an isolation centre for COVID-positive houseless individuals is also putting shelter users and employees at risk, amid the shortage of shelter beds and space.  

With a limited capacity to support those in need of shelter, this winter brings trepidation and concerns for a rise in the number of frostbite cases, respiratory illness cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as unhoused individuals turn to encampments and the congregate, high-occupancy shelters

The current housing crisis and rise in inflation have also pushed post-secondary students to the streets. 

Research at the homeless hub indicates that an estimated 80,000 post-secondary students across Canada are houseless and this number may be a lot higher with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

There is a need for the city of Hamilton to communicate its findings and progress in a more equitable manner to all stakeholders including the community members being affected by these decisions and further empower the participation by its residents to help make decisions about development.  

Currently, rent is so unaffordable that post-secondary students make up a third of the resident population at the Covenant House Toronto shelter. With the unaffordability of housing here in Hamilton, it’s no doubt that students in our communities are facing similar circumstances, putting their well-being and education at stake.   

So far, the city of Hamilton is allocating 125,000 dollars for the operation of drop-in overnight emergency warming centers for unhoused individuals until March 31st. While this will provide relief for several houseless Hamiltonians, it is a short-term band-aid solution. 

Despite the city having an overdue 10-year Housing & Homelessness Action Plan since 2004, it’s hard to see any significant actionable change in the community.  

Surely, the goals and outcomes listed in their hefty annual report sound good but there is limited evidence available on the city of Hamilton’s website to support their progress.  

A case study on Hamilton by the Canadian Human Rights Commission critiqued the city’s response to encampments and revealed a number of human rights issues that needed to be addressed, further indicating that a lot of progress is needed to resolve Hamilton’s housing and houselessness crises.  

There is a need for the city of Hamilton to communicate its findings and progress in a more equitable manner to all stakeholders including the community members being affected by these decisions and further empower the participation by its residents to help make decisions about development.  

As the houseless population grows, we must recognize that this is a Canada-wide problem that requires federal government input.  

For a country that forms alliances with others, lends a global helping hand and warmly welcomes many others to the land of opportunity, it’s disappointing to see critical issues within our nation repeatedly neglected.  

This winter, houseless individuals in our community and communities across Canada are paying the price of structural neglect.  

Whether it is the limited shelter capacities, heightened risk of freezing to death this winter, or the sheer unaffordability of life, this is not as good as it gets for unhoused Canadians and the governments that have sworn to serve us must step up and do better.  

Author

  • Ayushka Tiwary

    Breanna is in her second year of Honours Life Sciences. She is ecstatic to combine her love for science and writing by bringing a scientific perspective to the opinions section. Outside of the Silhouette, Breanna enjoys watching anime, taste-testing her sister's baked treats, and reading novels.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2023 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.
magnifiercrossmenuarrow-right