City of Brantford Developing Further Strategy to Assist Homeless Population
The largest tent city in Brantford, located off Sherwood Drive, will be cleaned up with police presence this week. Residents at another smaller camp, located at Bell City Transport, will also be evicted. A recent report from Brantford’s Encampment Network and Social Services staff cites, the number of occupants at the Sherwood Drive location has grown considerably, as well as structures on the site (at least 8 tents including storage). This can pose problems for city services. Occupants of this site have been notified of the impending eviction by city staff.
Despite their circumstances, most residents are seemingly positive about their situation, and quite candid about their reasons for ending up in these current living conditions. Jessy believes she is lucky to have found the Sherwood Drive encampment, and adds, they have prided themselves on their team work, peacefulness and cleanliness of their “community”.
Six months ago, Jessy was living with her common law husband. She says, after her husband passed away and suffering from a chronic illness, she found herself homeless and one of the faces of Brantford’s Tent City.
“Unless you have family that’s going to take you off the streets, it’s quite hard and sometimes impossible to get off…I thought I’d only be out here for a few months and I’m not quite sure at this point how to get off the streets”
Standing to the left of a small, yet well tended flower garden within the tent city, resident Dawn regrets, a series of poor choices lead to her current situation, but explains she chose the tent city life over accepting the rules of staying in a local shelter.
“Shelters have curfews and that shouldn’t be hard for normal people, but if you have addictions, it’s hard to feed your addiction within their curfew.”Dawn, Tent City Resident
In the winter, Dawn says she simply doesn’t get a lot of sleep. She describes her routine as nodding off for a few minutes in a coffee shop before being asked to move on, usually to another, or a night here and there on a friend’s couch.
Both Jessy and Dawn admit, neither are quite sure at this point how they will get off the streets for the winter.
Ward 1 Councillor, Rick Weaver, says Social Services staff have been visiting the tent city sites on a regular basis to discuss the help they can provide and have now offered alternative short-term housing solutions given the planned eviction.
“As a politician, it’s a difficult situation because we have some folks that say we are not doing enough and others concerned about safety and asking why we are allowing these encampments. I really don’t think most people know all that they city is doing to try and help these folks.”Rick Weaver, Brantford City Councillor, Ward 1
The city’s Social Services staff have also been in discussion with a consultant from OrgCode Inc., who are leading experts on homelessness in North America. The consultant has confirmed the city’s approach aligns with recommended best practices, and suggests the issue is not one that can be eradicated, but rather at best contained.
Further strategies in regards to Brantford’s homeless population will be discussed at a meeting organized by the Social Services department on August 7th.