An increase in the number and size of encampments has led to heightened concerns about the safety and well-being of people living outdoors, as well as the impact on the surrounding community.
The City of Toronto will enforce the clearing of encampments after:
Before an encampment is cleared, outreach workers attend the site to offer those in the encampment options to move inside with their belongings. This might include access to shelter or housing. Learn more about encampment outreach and response. Once an encampment is vacated, the site is cleaned by City staff.
The City has an interdivisional approach to ensure enforcement action is coordinated.
On October 21, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice refused to grant an injunction that would have required the City of Toronto to suspend the enforcement of its Parks Bylaw that prohibits camping in City parks during the current pandemic.
While this ruling was made, the City’s focus remains on engaging and building trust with those living outside to assist them with their needs, be it health or housing. Learn more about encampment outreach and response.
The City is aware there has been an increase in the number and size of encampments as well as concerns about the safety and well-being of people living outdoors, and the impact on the local community.
The City has a multi-division Encampment Operations Group that assesses risks in order to prioritize encampment response and works closely with front line community partners to better serve those in encampments.
The City remains focused on the safety of those in encampments and moving clients sleeping outdoors into safer, indoor spaces through shelter programs, hotel spaces and housing options with supports.
Overdose, open flames, generators, propane tanks, and lack of access to water and sanitation, increases health and safety risks for individuals living in encampments.
As of mid-December 2020, Toronto Fire Services (TFS) has responded to more than 240 fires in encampments, which demonstrates a significant risk to individuals living outdoors, as well as to first responders and the broader community. This represents an increase of at least 235 per cent over the same period in 2019. In 2019, there were 73 fire calls to encampments. Sadly in 2020, one person has died as a result of an encampment fire.
In response, TFS has increased fire safety education and emergency response protocols for encampments. TFS staff continue to visit encampments to conduct site safety visits and educate individuals on fire prevention. This includes handing out fire safety notices.
Toronto Fire Services does not provide safety equipment, or portable extinguishers / fire retardant blankets to any encampment sites, but does endorse the following fire safety messaging for encampment occupants:
In the event of a fire:
The City’s encampment cleaning, clearing and enforcement team is a multidisciplinary effort composed of the following:
Supports the safe delivery of City services and helps to enforce the Trespass to Property Act, when required.
Works in close partnership with Shelter, Support and Housing Administration and uses housing as a human right approach to engage individuals staying outdoors.
Parks Ambassadors works to ensure the City’s parks are safe, ready for permitted activities and resolve conflicts where they arise. This is done by:
Responds to noise and bylaw complaints and conducts enforcement as needed.
When possible, helps to clean encampments that have been abandoned or cleared.
Participates in health and safety assessments and responds to calls for service or fires in encampments. Will negotiate the surrender of combustibles and fire risks (generators, gasoline, heaters, open flames, etc.). Also provides education and discusses fire prevention with those in encampments.
Works with Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) and street nurses doing outreach in parks, and provides medical care and advice to those in encampments.
Using a common-sense approach to enforcement, officers continue to exercise consideration for those experiencing homelessness. Where possible, offices look at all available options and consider enforcement as a last resort. If necessary, Trespass to Property Act offences may be applied.
Responds to encampments on the City’s right-of-way. Transportation Services refers individuals to the City’s Streets to Homes outreach team for support before determining next steps.
In almost all cases, the City of Toronto is aware of encampment locations and Streets to Homes outreach staff are engaging with those living outdoors.
Unless there is an emergency or change in state of an encampment, it is not necessary to report an established encampment to the City and our partners.
Learn more about encampment outreach and response.
If you have a concern about encampments, please reach out to the appropriate organization:
3-1-1 | 416-338-0889 (TTY)
To request help:
Report concerns about:
416-808-2222, 416-467-0493 (TTY)