Today, Ombudsman Toronto released his interim report and recommendations: “Investigation into the City’s Processes for Clearing Encampments 2021.” The City of Toronto accepts the Ombudsman’s recommendations and remains committed to strengthening its housing first approach to street and encampment outreach and providing wrap-around, client-centred case management supports to people living outdoors, constructively and in a non-confrontational way.
The interim report follows Toronto’s Ombudsman Kwame Addo’s review of the City of Toronto’s trespass enforcement of illegal encampment occupants from some City parks in 2021. The report will be presented at the July meeting of Toronto City Council and City staff will implement the recommendations and provide the Ombudsman with an update in the fourth quarter of 2022, and quarterly thereafter.
The recommendations in the report involve updating the City outreach initiative plan and better defining and communicating the role and mandate of the City’s Encampment Office.
In June of 2021, Council voted to support the City Manager’s staff report entitled, “COVID-19 Response Update: Protecting People Experiencing Homelessness and Ensuring the Safety of the Shelter System. In it, Council approved an amendment adopting a goal of zero encampments. At the beginning of June 2021, there were approximately 418 encampments across the city. As of July 13, 2022, there are approximately 121 encampments across the city.
The City operates a system of more than 1,500 parks and ravines as shared recreational spaces for the benefit of the community. Outreach efforts at these locations focus on engaging with individuals living in encampments and other outdoor areas to build trusting relationships, help address immediate health and safety needs and find permanent housing. Outreach staff visit various sites daily to work with encampment occupants on referrals to indoor accommodations and to connect them with a housing worker. This engagement process continues once a person accepts an inside space to help ensure they have ongoing support and access to services.
Since the beginning of the pandemic to May 2022, 9,129 people experiencing homelessness moved from the shelter system into permanent housing and Streets to Homes and outreach partners have referred 2,525 individuals from outdoors into emergency shelter programs.
The emergency shelter system plays an important role in supporting the health and wellness of those experiencing homelessness. The solution to homelessness, however, is permanent housing with supports. In 2021, the City delivered more than 550 new homes with supports, including 450 through Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) Rapid Rehousing, and by creating other new housing opportunities. This year, the City is planning to open more than 2,800 additional homes with supports through the TCHC Rapid Rehousing program, the Rapid Housing Initiative, and the Modular Housing Initiative.
The City’s 10-year housing plan, HousingTO 2020-2030, includes actions across the full housing spectrum. The plan calls for the approval of 40,000 new affordable rental homes including 18,000 new supportive homes by 2030. Also, through the Council-approved 24-Month COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Response Plan, the City is on track to exceed its targets and create more than 3,300 new affordable housing opportunities.
Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.