Hamilton non-profit shelter The Hub ordered to clean graffiti or face bill, city says

An overnight drop-in centre in Hamilton that takes in unhoused people and offers them meals, as well as medical care, has less than 20 days to remove graffiti from the outside walls of its building.

The Hub’s executive director Jennifer Bonner says she saw the “yellow poster” from city bylaw on her door Wednesday ordering the removal of graffiti on the building by Oct. 24 or be billed for a city-led cleanup.

Bonner says the creations on the side of the Vine Street building are not a “requested art installation” from her or any of her compatriots but random work done by people unknown.

“I would assume at this point that bylaw, as busy as they are, are going from a complaint process,” Bonner said.

“But I actually don’t know if it was just someone in the neighbourhood who decided to do that.”

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Bonner says as far as she can see, none of the drawings resemble “gang markers,” just “personal messages” like a “love someone” note as well as an R.I.P. message to someone in the community.

“So there definitely wasn’t anything that was, like, super graphic that needed to come off,” she said.

“And there was nothing related to gang symbols. We would have removed that already if it was.”

The Hub is a non-profit co-ed overnight drop-in centre for those experiencing homelessness with some 25 shelter spaces that typically hits capacity with about 100 vulnerable people during winter cold alerts.

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Over the past year, the social safety net has been serving some 65 to 100 people seven days a week, juggling the effects of a housing crisis, a drug poisoning crisis and the consistent closures of other community supports.

In September, the agency reached out to the city for funding to increase accommodations by some 180 to 200 people per night to execute a winter response strategy.

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Bonner says her frustration is how graffiti at The Hub suddenly became a priority for the city considering how much the municipality has relied on it to put a roof over unhoused people for three years.

“Here we are doing a whole bunch of work … because we care about people, but at the same time you’re going to come and fine me for graffiti,” Bonner mused.

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“We are helping folks navigate the system here, trying to get folks reconnected to services so that they can get in those by-name priority list, get housing.”

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Mayor Andrea Horwath somewhat agreed via a social media post on Friday supporting a fight against graffiti, but not at the expense of an “indispensable, hard-working not-for-profit.”

Bonner says removal of the graffiti is not something she nor Hub staff would be able to do since some of it is strewn across the building’s roof line.

“At this point, we would have to contract it out as the graffiti is also, like, at our roofline,” she said.

“I guess someone climbed onto our building at one point and did something at the roof line.”

Fortunately, she says some community partners that specialize in graffiti removal have reached out to offer help.

“So certainly some resources have come our way, but, otherwise it would be basically taking food out of people’s mouths,” Bonner said.


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