City’s Caines: homeless still a priority

  • Seeking a solution: Dwayne Caines, chief operating officer of the City of Hamilton, with former Human Rights Commissioner Rachel Bailey, announces plans for a daytime centre catering to the city’s homeless (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)
  • Beds for the homeless at the Berkeley Institute on the first night of curfew (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A plan to help homeless men and women housed by the Government after a coronavirus curfew was imposed is in the works, the City of Hamilton said yesterday.

A temporary shelter, at CedarBridge Academy in Prospect, will cease to operate after the curfew is lifted.

Dwayne Caines, the chief operating officer at the City of Hamilton, said plans for specialist service in Hamilton to help the homeless, announced in January, had been delayed during the lockdown.

Mr Caines said: “We were about to go live with a significant push on this issue. Then Covid-19 came and everything went on hold.

“We have not powered back up fully yet. We still have a significant amount of staff working from home.”

Mr Caines said the Corporation of Hamilton had been drawing up a “long-term strategy” that would include a day centre for homeless people to clean up and meet staff from social service agencies when the pandemic hit.

He added discussions halted in March — with the reins passed to the Government’s emergency shelter.

Mr Caines said he had been unable to visit the temporary accommodation in CedarBridge’s gymnasium because of coronavirus precautions.

Mr Caines added: “Once we get fully back up operationally in the next three to four weeks, we will start looking at where we are and what we can do to reignite.

“The corporation is still fully committed to creating a sustained plan to assist with the unsheltered population.”

Mr Caines added: “During Covid-19, the need for a long-term solution became painfully evident to all.

“The Government did a significant job in finding a short-term solution.

“In the near future we will be reconvening to build on all the work that has been done over the last few months.”

However, she warned that the creation of a city day centre for the homeless would involve a hunt for a suitable building and its conversion. Mr Caines said the CedarBridge stopgap measure had been “satisfactory in meeting the critical needs”.

“But what it has highlighted is the work that must be done in the long term for the unsheltered population.”

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said this week the CedarBridge shelter would continue “as long as the curfew is in place”.

He added: “It is our goal to work with other agencies, both private and public, to ensure that we have a transition for all those that are guests at our shelter.”

The minister said the residents would “transition into another phase of their existence” after the emergency shelter was closed.

The minister has praised the work done at CedarBridge over the crisis, including a move to sobriety for homeless people who had struggled with addiction.

No end date for the curfew has been set, although Phase 4 of a four-stage return to normal life will start on Wednesday.

The Government said the curfew will be reviewed on a week-to-week basis.

Successive governments have struggled with finding a solution to the need for adequate shelter for the homeless.

The Salvation Army’s emergency shelter off Marsh Lane in Pembroke has been in disrepair for years and alternative housing at the disused Bishop Spencer building on The Glebe Road, Pembroke, will need millions of dollars spent on it to bring it up to scratch.

The national security ministry, which was responsible for the creation of the CedarBridge shelter in Devonshire and an earlier one at the Berkeley Institute in Pembroke, did not respond to questions on what was likely to happen when the emergency housing shuts.