After a second meeting with the city of London regarding London’s unhoused, a group of frontline workers is still going ahead with a planned hunger strike next week.
On Tuesday at 9 a.m. #TheForgotten519 group member Leticia Mizon said the group is moving ahead with a hunger strike on the steps of City Hall.
“If people in the city won’t look at the deaths that we’re bringing to light and the plight of the people that we’re trying to amplify from the margins, then they’ll certainly, hopefully take a look at somebody starving to death on their front doorstep,” Mizon said.
“I think that at this point we’ve done our best to explain and offer solutions, and if the deaths continue to be ignored or unsupported in an urgent fashion like we are suggesting, it happens then, you know, we’re already at that point.”
The group, #TheForgotten519, gave the city one week to implement three demands aimed at improving conditions for the city’s vulnerable, or offer acceptable alternatives, or one of the members would start a hunger strike on Aug. 2.
“All we’re asking right now is keeping people safe, offering supports to encampments to increase stability and safety, and having access to a touch point for outreach support workers to have that happen, and for space,” Mizon said.
Hunger strike still on after unsuccessful meeting with city, London advocacy group says
In a statement from the city of London, staff said they are doing everything they can to support people to move towards supportive and permeant housing in the future, but it has corners with the group’s demands.
The city said that actions outlined in the demands would “put the health and safety of London’s most vulnerable people at greater risk.”
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
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“We share their concerns for the vulnerable people in London and agree that we, like many cities, are at a crisis point,” the city’s statement reads.
“We also appreciate that conversations throughout the week have created an even greater awareness of just how difficult these times are for people who are experiencing homelessness, addictions or mental health challenges. We grieve as well whenever a person passes away at the hands of poverty, addiction, or inadequate housing support.”
The city also addressed two of the group’s concerns regarding the dismantling of encampments and the role of the Coordinated Informed Response team.
“The city currently does permit safe encampments. Through the Community Informed Response program, we are currently monitoring close to 350 active encampments. In July, there were only four notices for removal were posted, two of which were on private property, and one was on a public sidewalk. Our approach to encampments continues to be on a case by case basis,” the statement said.
“When the Community Informed Response team visits an encampment, the primary concern is health and safety always, for the individuals at the encampment as well as in the surrounding areas. The approach has not been to displace and tear down encampments. It begins with outreach and support.”
When asked about the city’s response to encampments, Mizon said the group’s first-hand experience would disagree with this statement.
“We see the effects of forced displacement every single day. Or outreach teams are the ones meeting the people in the encampments prior to a forced eviction, or they’re meeting them after in services, at shelters, or even just on the street, and we hear otherwise. The mixed messaging between people who want to protect their image and people who are experiencing these forced displacements daily, there’s a disconnect,” Mizon said.
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In a statement, the London Homeless Coalition (LHC) shares the #theforgotten519 concerns regarding the rising number of deaths.
The LHC Death Communication Protocol has recorded 27 deaths since January 2022 of individuals who were deprived of housing or who were housed with a history of homelessness.
LHC is comprised of housing programs, frontline staff, independent members, voices of lived experience and the City of London.
“We share the urgency,” said Jaclyn Seeler, co-chair of the LHC. “We do understand that there’s a rising number of deaths that are occurring, and these are obviously very important and life-threatening issues, and these issues do require an urgent response. They require a short-term response, and they require a long-term response.”
“We do have a system that is functioning well for individuals and families that are experiencing a housing crisis and homelessness,” Seeler said. “However, we also know that there’s gaps, and within those gaps are individuals that are also dying on our streets.”
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