After the third round of talks with London, Ont., city officials, a group advocating for Londoners experiencing homeless say they are ending their hunger strike after reaching an agreement.
This comes after an organizing member of #TheForgotten519 group, Dan Oudshoorn, began a hunger strike on the steps of city hall Tuesday, calling for action to stem a rising tide of deaths among Londoners experiencing homelessness.
“TheForgotten519 are overwhelmed and grateful to their community that made these urgent actions possible. We stand in solidarity with all of the frontline workers and in solidarity with the solutions we have collectively achieved today,” the group said in a statement.
“We have seen the power of the collective voice of the frontlines and how this can achieve change. While this isn’t the way it has always been done, it was a clear demonstration that these things were needed and achievable. We thank everyone who made this possible.”
The group had demanded that the city:
Halt the removal of encampments, tents, campsites or squats in parks, along the Thames Valley Parkway, and in empty city lots.Change the role of the city’s Coordinated Informed Response (CIR) team “from a displacement model, to a team that offers meaningful support … to campers at their campsites.”Create two indoor spaces providing round-the-clock, seven-day support to those deprived of housing and shelter or in need of a safe place.
Dan Oudshoorn sits inside a tent near City Hall.
Andrew Graham / Global News
In response to the group’s first demands, an action plan with nine steps has been created, including parameters for when city bylaw is to get involved with the Community Task Force and guidelines for dealing with encampments and the people in them.
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The steps include having the community train Municipal Law Enforcement Officers on such things as low barrier approaches, harm reduction, and trauma-informed work.
The plan also calls for the city and Community Task Force to provide material on where people can and can’t set up encampments from a bylaw perspective and for the city to provide water and food for acute needs to London Cares for distribution.
The city will also be increasing access to showers for those living in encampments through the use of shower trailers.
“We are grateful for the willingness of agencies from across the system to come together. The perspectives of frontline workers, who are seeing and experiencing first hand the impacts of a system that is stretched and broken, are essential in this process. These have been difficult conversations,” said Kevin Dickins, deputy city manager, social and health development for London.
“It’s clear that everyone who participated is committed to working collectively to affect change, immediately and into the future. Through the sessions, both yesterday and today, we have identified steps we can take – at the city and across the system – to better support people who are experiencing homelessness, addictions and episodic mental health challenges.”
The group’s third demand for 24/7 support is still in the works, with a team being formed to develop a place for medium and long-term support to ensure a site is set up ahead of winter.
The team will be composed of representatives from various service providers, with the initial meeting happening on Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 9 a.m.
The goal is to have a plan ready within four weeks, the agreed-upon solution states.
“London Cares is pleased to lead a collaborative community response to providing more support to those experiencing homelessness in London to prevent more death. So many agencies came to the table to work together with the City of London and The Forgotten 519 for meaningful solutions,” said Anne Armstrong, executive director of London Cares Homeless Response Services.
— with files from Global News Andrew Graham.
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