Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday October 15, 2022
New Hamilton council must grow political will to tackle complex and polarizing issues
Of the myriad issues and challenges facing Hamilton’s new city council, few are as complex and polarizing as homelessness and the drug epidemic that continues to take a horrific toll.
Mental health, poverty, addictions, safe and secure housing — all are at play in one big tangled Gordian knot. But if the new council just begins with a sense of urgency and addresses some of the pieces, it will already have achieved what the current council has not.
To begin, we need a broad and official acknowledgment that what is happening now isn’t working. While no one wants to see tent encampments in the lower city or elsewhere, the solution cannot simply be to tear them down and displace the residents. All that does is move the problem from one place to another, making it more difficult to serve this challenged population.
We have empathy for residents who feel less safe and inconvenienced by the presence of encampments, but there is no sweeping this under the rug.
What we need is more stable and secure housing options. The current council hasn’t done nearly enough. A part of the solution could be the HATS initiative which would see homeless people accommodated in purpose-built small shelters, clustered together for optimal service delivery. Tiny shelter communities are working in many other places in Canada and the U.S., including as close as Kitchener.
Some Hamilton councillors have expressed support for HATS, but that support is typically accompanied by a list of locations where they don’t want the settlement to be. Everyone can agree the idea should help, but no one wants to see in their ward. That’s not real support. In other cases local government has actually become actively involved in the project, but here council has been hands off. The private group driving the pilot project is seeking a site, and if they find one on private property, HATS could come to life. But it will be in spite of city council, not because of it.
Similarly, consider the opioid epidemic. Three years ago, city hall recognized the need for more supervised consumption and treatment services sites (CTS) that are proven to save lives by having resources on hand to help overdose victims. The limited services running now are literally saving lives, but the supply of CTS sites is far from adequate.
We know the city needs more. Community groups are actively working on plans for more, but they are facing opposition from residents, in particular in the lower city. Their argument goes something like: Inner city wards already house an above average number of services and shelters, so the needed CTS capacity should be in some other part of the city. The problem with that is that the population that needs the service isn’t someplace else, and it doesn’t make much sense to open a CTS site where drug users won’t use it.
It is worth noting here that city staff are not the issue. They are already working with others on the ground with community partners. What’s missing is political will. It is our fervent hope that a new council and mayor will change that. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
From sketch to finish, see the current way Graeme completes an editorial cartoon using an iPencil, the Procreate app, and a couple of cheats on an iPad Pro …