A Hamilton anti-poverty advocate calls the Ford government’s elimination of a child benefit “absolutely cruel” amid a city report showing 1,800 children receive it.

The Transition Child Benefit currently provides refugee-claimant families and low-income families who are unable to access Ontario or Canada child benefits with a maximum of $230 per child per month. The Ford government announced in April it will eliminate the benefit as of November 1, leaving vulnerable families worried about their future, advocates fuming and municipalities scrambling to make up the loss.

A recent city of Hamilton report states 1,800 children in Hamilton receive the benefit, paid out by the province. About 40 per cent of cases involve refugee claimants and 87 per cent of cases involve children under the age of three.

“It’s absolutely cruel because they are punishing the most vulnerable children in society,” said Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, calling the province’s decision “nonsensical” and “beyond the pale.”

The site of a tent-city in Maple Ridge is uninhabited for the first time in over two years.

The city is applauding the fact that the remaining residents of Anita Place have been relocated to a temporary modular housing project that opened Tuesday and looking forward to proceeding with plans for a park.

Meanwhile, an advocate says the clearing of the camp is actually a setback for people experiencing homelessness in the area.

Ivan Drury with Alliance Against Displacement says while Anita Place existed, people had a relatively safe, warm and dry option.

“Instead of that they’re now scattered out into the bushes in the surrounding area, or stuck sleeping in the alleys or doorways of the city of Maple Ridge,” he says.

It’s 9 a.m. in Cabot Square in downtown Montreal and a small group of women admit they aren’t sober.

“I used to be down and in a bad way, like struggling with alcohol and drugs, and right now I’m trying to go up,” said Kennie.

Normally, the women would have found a place to stay at the Open Door day shelter nearby. It was one of the few wet shelters in the city that accepted intoxicated people.

However, the shelter moved last year to Parc Avenue in the Plateau-Mont-Royal — and now some of the homeless people in the area say they have nowhere to go.

Richmond council passed the city’s first homelessness strategy in 17 years, but not without public criticism and last-minute wordsmithing.

De Whalen with the Richmond Poverty Reduction Committee addressed council on Monday before the strategy was debated by council. She focused her criticism on four areas: seniors, outreach work, faith communities and the involvement of people with lived experience.

Whalen advocated drawing on the experiences of those who have been homeless, adding that it can’t be assumed that service providers have this expertise.

“People with lived experience are the experts in their own lives and should sit at tables making decisions about them,” she told council. “Unless they are included, these folks will continue to say ‘nothing about us without us.’”

She also pointed out seniors are the fastest growing demographic group falling into homelessness and that faith communities should be invited to advise on prevention and solutions to homelessness.

Local resident Heather MacKechnie began the discussion at the Sept. 3 meeting. As an employee at Exeter United Church, MacKechnie said in the past three years the church has seen an increase in the number of people requesting assistance because they are struggling to meet basic needs such as food and shelter.

MacKechnie said it’s a common misperception that people who are in these situations are making bad choices and are unwilling to work or are on drugs.

“When you take the time to sit with people and hear their stories, it is a very different picture,” she said.

She said she knows one individual who ended up homeless because of a relationship breakdown. Another lost her apartment after prolonged illness and hospitalization resulting in her not being able to pay her bills. Another suffered an accident and was unable to work.

“There are so many stories,” MacKechnie said. “Families with children, youth, seniors, both men and women. But the important thing to remember is this isn’t a choice for them. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I really want to be homeless.’”

As Doug Ford’s government gets ready to overhaul social assistance programs, Ontario service providers are warning Ford’s changes, billed as “compassionate,” could force many recipients into homelessness.

Ford’s plan to cancel the Transition Child Benefit and raise assistance clawbacks has already drawn the ire of many service providers.

Earlier this year, Toronto City Manager Chris Murray wrote in a note to city council that Ford’s cuts will increase the strain on municipal services, including its family shelter system. Similar concerns were raised by social service managers in Waterloo, London and Windsor.

Homeless people camping on the property at Emmanuel United Church will spend their final night there on Sept. 30, said its minister — then they must leave.

Rev. Don Uhryniw said he’s concerned about campers’ well-being as the nights grow colder.

Although he said on Tuesday he hadn’t set a deadline for campers to leave, he said he met with the city CAO on Wednesday and asked that municipal social service workers be sent to the church property to help people find housing.

Uhryniw said he was unhappy that no city workers had come see the homeless campers since he allowed them to pitch their tents on church property Aug. 27.