News Releases 

The City of Toronto is aware there has been an increase in the number and size of encampments as well as increase in concerns about the safety and well-being of people living outdoors, and the impact on the local community. The City and community partners have mobilized a COVID-19 response strategy for outreach and encampments that prioritizes health and safety.

The following is a summary of the City's efforts that are underway to respond. The current situation is complex given the demand for safe and accessible spaces, affordable and supportive housing, an overdose epidemic and community safety issues.

Encampments are not permitted in City parks and it is not permitted to erect tents and other structures on City property.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, encampment clearing had not been happening due to the City's focus on creating safe physical distancing within the Shelter system.

Since mid-March through Sept 23, in addition to the 75 shelter and respites sites the City and its partners operate, the City has opened more than 30 temporary facilities and moved over 3,500 people into temporary community centre programs, hotels and permanent housing to achieve physical distancing in the shelter system and provide spaces for people to move indoors from encampments.

Since April to Sept 23, the City has moved more than 850 people from at least 61 encampments to inside safe spaces including interim housing, hotels and shelter. Teams from the City’s Streets-to-Homes will continue to engage with people experiencing homelessness to assist them with their needs, be it health or housing.

Overdose, open flames, generators, propane tanks, and lack of access to water and sanitation increases health and safety risks for individuals living in encampments.

The City will continue to ensure its most vulnerable residents are being looked after by a dedicated team of caring and committed public servants.

Subsequent to the individuals being moved, the encampments are cleared of waste and debris. Our priority is getting people safely inside.

When an encampment is vacated by individuals accepting placement in shelter, respite sites, housing or who otherwise relocate, the site is cleaned by City staff.   The City is required and does ensure that we make an offer of shelter/housing, before individuals are directed to move from the location, therefore, the access to available space is a requirement before an encampment can be cleared.  If an offer to access these supports is refused, a notification of encampment clearing will be issued based on the relevant City bylaws and the site will be cleared by City staff and/or contracted services.

Clearing encampments is a multidisciplinary effort with staff from Parks, Forestry & Recreation, Transportation Services, Solid Waste Management Services, and Shelter, Support & Housing Administration, and where appropriate, there is support from the Toronto Police Service to ensure the safety of all.

The City of Toronto remains focused on the safety of all of our citizens.  This includes neighbourhoods, and also those living in encampments which includes working to move clients sleeping outdoors into safer spaces inside and providing access to services to address the needs of vulnerable Torontonians. As indoor spaces become available, the City will continue to provide individuals with the opportunity to move inside, and will be supporting them to do so with their belongings.  The City then ensures abandoned belongings are cleared and the site is cleaned.

While the City continues its efforts to secure indoor spaces, as well as expanding housing opportunities, City inter-divisional teams with the support of Toronto Police Service will continue to address community safety concerns, including working with community partners to increase outreach, engagement and wellness checks in encampments, address public health and sanitary conditions, and increasing litter pick up.

We commit to update you on our efforts and timelines to respond to this serious situation. We appreciate how difficult this situation is for all involved, and we appreciate your patience and support as we work to serve all Torontonians.

General information on the COVID-19 response within the city’s emergency shelter system, outreach, housing support, sanitation and washroom services, and many other COVID-19 resources. Visit www.toronto.ca/COVID-19

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