By Thanansayan Dhivagaran and Fahad Butt, with files from Josh Tony – OPIRG McMaster
Houselessness is a very serious issue in Hamilton. The Hamilton Alliance for Tiny Shelters (HATS) aims to empower those experiencing houselessness by providing them with safe and warm shelters. The innovative approach taken by HATS to tackle houselessness is to set up warm and safe tiny cabins, for individuals that are living unhoused in the Hamilton community. These efforts include necessary amenities and person-centred wrap-around support services for residents. HATS recognizes that these efforts are aimed to be temporary solutions to address the systemic issues of unemployment and housing affordability. This is precisely why these homes aim to only be temporary spaces in which residents can stay safe and connect to further services within the community that will help them get back on their feet financially and emotionally.
Current Infrastructure and Goals
“[Hamilton, Ontario] is in the midst of a deplorable housing and homelessness crisis.”
These are the words of Tom Cooper, one of the leaders of HATS, who has stated several goals to mediate this crisis. The immediate goals for HATS are to first acquire land upon which development can take place. With the identification of a sanctioned site, the plan is to set up approximately 20 tiny cabins in which residents can live independently in a safe and supportive community. The tiny cabins also share a communal bathroom that can be easily set up and maintained for the developed community. The inclusion of centralized facilities makes the maintenance of the Tiny Shelter communities more friendly and achievable.
Plaque on Tiny Shelter
People who qualify for support will then be able to move in as soon as the cabins have been built. It is anticipated that residents of the tiny shelters will receive extended support in the form of medical care, mental health support, peer support and mentorship, addictions counselling, harm reduction support, system navigation support, and housing support. Additionally, accessibility services for residents with disabilities are currently being discussed with the city of Hamilton to ensure that specialized care can be given to all that need it during their stay. Within the Hamilton community, there is pre-existing infrastructure for these services, and with their partnership, these services will be extended to residents of the HATS cabin community.
Currently, there is significant community support and donations facilitating the program; however, there exist several barriers that hinder the operation of HATS. The most critical barrier that currently exists, is the lack of locations upon which the tiny cabin can be developed. Complicating things, a site that was previously identified has experienced a large flood and become unsuitable for the development of the tiny cabins.
As a non-profit organization, HATS is reliant on support from the community to meet its goals and objectives. HATS is currently partnered with Hamilton’s Social Planning and Research Council through which it takes donations. Donations made go towards the construction and deployment of 20 cabins, necessary provisions such as bedding, furnishings and meals, and wrap-around support for residents. Individuals can support the cause by raising awareness of the central issues and having conversations with local political leaders about their plans for affordable housing. Individuals can also get personally involved by applying for volunteer positions with HATS.