Staff studying creation of voluntary citizen registry to host homeless

Support TNI Subscribe

And why it’s already sparked outrage from activists. Photo credit: Getty Images/Encyclopedia Britannica


A study exploring the possibility of creating a city-wide citizen registry has not yet been presented to Hamilton Council but has already sparked outrage amongst some progressive-leaning councillors and activist groups.

The motion to have staff study the possibility of a citizen registry to host the homeless was brought forward by Councillor Matt Francis (Ward 5 – Hamilton East-Stoney Creek) and seconded by Councillor Tammy Hwang (Ward 4 – East Hamilton). It passed at Council 9-6.

Francis simply proposed that staff should explore whether or not it makes sense for the city to create a registry as a possible measure to temporarily help house the homeless.

The motion included asking city staff to report on the “feasibility, financial impacts, and potential liability of a registry for advocates, members of council, and residents” to sign up to host someone who is homeless.

Hwang noted that a program in Oshawa involving faith groups and social service agencies already runs a similar registry.

It is important to note that the motion simply asked for staff to study the topic and did not in any way immediately call for the implementation of a registry.

Despite that, a number of more progressive-leaning councillors voiced strong opposition to the motion.

Councillor Maureen Wilson (Ward 1 – Westdale-Chedoke-Cootes) said that the motion was “problematic,” homelessness “won’t be solved through individual benevolence,” and she objected “to the sentiment behind” the motion.

Francis contended that the motion simply explores one possible way that the city can help get people off of the streets and that it’s not meant to be the be-all-end-all solution.

  1. Wilson also said that a registry could potentially put homeless people at risk if they are matched up with someone who turns out to have bad intentions.

The argument was also made that residents opening up their homes or backyards to the homeless would also be put at risk, particularly if they take in people with serious addictions and/or mental health issues.

But Horwath countered that not all homeless people are experiencing addiction and mental health issues, some of them have simply lost their jobs or are younger adults who are trying to get on their feet but have complicated relationships with family.

The city estimated as of April 2023 that there are 1,600 individuals who are “actively homeless” and that there are approximately 100 encampments of varying sizes in the city.

Councillor Cameron Kroetsch (Ward 2 – Downtown Hamilton) also spoke against the motion, saying that it “sends the wrong message.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Brad Clark (Ward 9 – Upper Stoney Creek) ultimately decided to vote against the motion due to the aforementioned liability concerns.

It was Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath who ended up taking the middle ground.

Speaking to Council, Horwath said, “Let’s look at the situation, let’s look at where there might be some other opportunities and let’s not shut the door on anything.”

She pointed out that she knows that there are some “ideological perspectives” that come into play in conversations around homelessness, but that Council needs to be “solution-oriented.”

“If it doesn’t work, if it’s not something that we can provide the resources for as a municipality we’ll hear that from staff.”

Horwath concluded, “I am going to take a leap of faith and support this just to get the information.”

Voting results were as follows:

FOR A STUDY ON THE REGISTRY (9): Mayor Andrea Horwath and Councillors Beattie, Danko, Francis, Hwang, McMeekin, Pauls, Spadafora, and Tadeson.

AGAINST A STUDY (6): Councillors Cassar, Clark, Kroetsch, Nann, A. Wilson, and M. Wilson.

ABSENT (1): Councillor Jackson

The motion also comes as the City has also been consulting with residents about a new encampment protocol and the possibility of creating city-approved encampment sites of 20 to 50 tents. 

It is expected that staff will be reporting back to Council on those encampment discussions in the coming days.

There does not appear to be any particular timeline on when staff will be reporting back to Council with their report on the registry.

Activist Outrage

Once the motion passed for staff to undertake a study on the possibility of a registry, a number of City Hall watchers expressed outrage, including the activist group “Hamilton Encampment Support Network” (HESN).

HESN, oft-quoted by Hamilton’s legacy media, was formed out of “Defund HPS,” a group that staged protests outside city hall in 2020 demanding a 50 per cent cut of the police budget and “free housing.”

Hamilton Centre MPP Sarah Jama and HWDSB trustee Sabreina Dahab (Ward 2 – Downtown Hamilton) have historically been involved with the group in various capacities.

The group organized a rally against the registry at Hamilton City Hall following the passing of the registry study motion.

They also issued a series of demands via social media saying that the City must scrap the registry idea, put a “moratorium” on encampment evictions, and provide “dignified, permanent and sustainable housing.”

Councillor Kroetsch attended HESN’s rally and later tweeted that he is proud of their work.

Your donations help us continue to deliver the news and commentary you want to read. Please consider donating today.

Support TNI


  • Politics

  • Sports

  • Business

  • Copy link
    Powered by Social Snap