Concerns increase over street sleepers and vagrants

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  • <B>A man sleeps</B> at the flag pole on Front Street yesterday afternoon. The Corporation of Hamilton is concerned at the increasing problem of street sleepers and vagrants in the City.

    A man sleeps at the flag pole on Front Street yesterday afternoon. The Corporation of Hamilton is concerned at the increasing problem of street sleepers and vagrants in the City.
    ((Photo by Mark Tatem))

Vagrancy concerns continue to rank high for Hamilton businesses, according to the latest City meeting.

Admitting that he disliked using the word “vagrants”, Deputy Mayor Donal Smith said police had referred complaints to him about “a stench of urine” near the Birdcage on Front Street.

“Something needs to be stepped up,” he said. “I’m not blaming Government, but we have a very serious complaint.”

He added: “We need to be seen not waiting on an agency to tell us what they’re doing — but to help direct policy.”

Councillor Troy Symonds said the Business Committee formed by the recently-elected Hamilton administration had heard concerns over workers and customers feeling unsafe throughout Hamilton.

“Policing is not a panacea, but it’s critical if we are to make all stakeholders safe and comfortable in the city. How can we make the city more vibrant if people don’t feel comfortable coming in?”

He said corporations were turning to private security to make sure staff were led safely to their cars at the end of the working day.

Cllr Larry Scott noted that the same concerns had been wrestled with under the previous administration.

“That was one reason they wanted wardens so we could do the police ourselves,” he said. “Our wardens need to have some arresting powers.”

Discussions thus far had come to “nought” he said, adding: “People are sleeping with duvets on benches — and there is more of it.”

Corporation Secretary Ed Benevides said the City had joined with merchants to hire extra security for events.

“They don’t have powers of arrest, but they’re using all resources to move people along,” he continued. “However, there may come a point when someone says they’re not moving.”

Mayor Graeme Outerbridge said the Corporation needed to liaise with Government to develop better social support for the homeless.

Cllr Keith Davis said it was a problem of “many facets” dealt with by different agencies in different areas.

“One is good at feeding, one is good at housing, one is good at clothing. Someone has to be able to say, ‘I am the supreme authority to bring them all together’. There also has to be somebody to give powers of arrest. That has to be Government.”

Of vagrants, he added: “Even Magistrates are saying, ‘Why do you keep bringing them to me?’ They don’t have a court problem — they have a social problem.”

The City teamed up with Security Associates Limited earlier in the summer, sending mobile patrols out in June to move along beggars and people sleeping in doorways.

Providing security with City Rangers was also a common refrain of City Meetings under previous mayor Charles Gosling.

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Published Oct 6, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm)

Concerns increase over street sleepers and vagrants

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