Statement from Sanguen Health Centre regarding the decision to repeal the motion.

We are aware of Councillor Hamilton’s decision to withdraw his motion regarding removing barriers for mobile health agencies like Sanguen to provide healthcare in the City of Cambridge. We understand and support this decision.

Since the motion went public, it has sparked many conversations about the ongoing need to provide this type of healthcare, while also engaging with existing relationships between community partners, the Region, and dedicated community members. We believe these conversations will lead to a solution, and the support of these partners has meant so much. Thank you to Councillor Hamilton for trying to help resolve this deadlocked situation, and for creating new conversations about how we can all proceed together to better our city, and Region.

It’s crucial to remember why this motion was proposed. It stems from the issue of the Sanguen Van being prohibited from parking on Market Lane in Cambridge, outside the Bridges Shelter. Despite several years of weekly one-hour stops, a sudden parking ban was enforced without clear justification or a willingness to work with Sanguen on finding an alternate place to park.

The City of Cambridge’s lack of accountability on this issue suggests a lack of support for the services that are provided to the homeless population. Otherwise, we believe the parking issue could have been collaboratively resolved, as it has been at other stops in both Cambridge and across the Region when issues have arisen.

Sanguen provides healthcare to individuals who are precariously housed or homeless. In the Region of Waterloo, over 1,000 people currently struggle with chronic homelessness and so many more are living on this razor’s edge. Those living rough face complex health issues and often feel isolated and stigmatized, disconnecting themselves from traditional health services. The van offers a crucial connection and a sense of worth, often the first step on a continuum of health.

Our van services include access to needles and other harm reduction supplies, but just as important, it also provides essential items like granola bars, menstrual products, clean clothing, and band-aids. Visitors can be vaccinated, have their wounds treated by a nurse, or talk with a social worker. These initial connections can lead to many positive outcomes and often provide a bright spot in their week.

When community leaders turn their backs on homeless individuals and create barriers to healthcare and support, the impacts are significant and detrimental. The message conveyed is that these individuals don’t deserve to be seen and that their health or lives don’t matter.

Harm reduction is a proven, evidence-based approach designed to protect people from preventable bloodborne illnesses. It is a health intervention, not a matter of personal morals or opinions.

It’s unfortunate and harmful when elected officials turn towards private social media groups to police encampments and spread harmful rhetoric about the homeless population. This can lead to unnecessary bullying and criticism of service providers and contributes to an inaccurate narrative that they are “not doing enough” while systems fail to address the crisis meaningfully by removing barriers and providing resources so that service providers can do more.

The solution requires everyone working together: upper and lower-tier municipalities, the province, the federal government, and agencies specializing in addressing the complex needs of this growing population. This is a systems issue, a policy issue rooted in outdated and exclusionary approaches. Without shifting from the systems that caused this housing crisis, we cannot expect to solve it.

Punishing homeless individuals is certainly not a solution to the housing and homelessness crisis. Everyone has a right to basic healthcare, regardless of where they sleep at night. We believe in being part of the broader solution and are grateful for our supportive partners at the Region of Waterloo, who are leading meaningful change through the Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.

How you can help:

  1. Become familiar with the principles of Harm Reduction and Outreach and how these evidence-based interventions are rooted in healthcare and wellbeing in the community.
  2. Check out our social media channels for announcements on supplies and donations that may be needed to help keep our services thriving.
  3. Create a safe community for all members by speaking out against the harmful effects of hatred and stigma.