The City of Toronto is continuing to do everything it can to address homelessness and keep some of our most vulnerable residents safe and protected against COVID-19.
The City is investing $663.2 million on Homelessness and Housing First solutions in 2021, almost double the amount spent in 2019 at $365.8 million.
City staff continue to help people move to safe indoor spaces and out of unsafe, unhealthy and illegal encampments. Since July 21, when the Lamport Stadium park encampment was cleared, 162 people have been referred to safe indoor space and 1,381 tents and structures have been removed from parks.
Today, the City of Toronto released final costs associated with the trespass notice enforcement, security to protect City staff, the public and encampment occupants, and the needed extensive remediation for Alexandra, Trinity Bellwoods and Lamport Stadium parks.
Trespass enforcement of encampments is about the health and safety of encampment occupants, as well the right of all residents to have safe access to parks. As of September 16, there have been 150 fire responses of which 90 were uncontrolled fires. From September 9 to 16 there have been two fires in encampments. In 2020, Toronto Fire Services responded to 253 fires in encampments – a 250 per cent increase over the same period in 2019.
Following enforcement, the parks have been open to all residents. Children’s summer day camps closed due to the encampment were able to open in Alexandra Park along with the splash pad, pool, dry pad and rink including pop-up skateboard park, and community garden. Permits for use of the sport field at Lamport Stadium that were cancelled as a result of encampments have now resumed.
Trespass notices were issued last April and again on June 12, 2021 to encampment occupants in City parks as encampments contravene several chapters of the Municipal Code. Costs associated with trespass enforcement at three parks include City and private security staff; Toronto Police, Fire and Paramedic staff; fleet costs for Transportation Services equipment; solid waste management services for debris removal; and other operational costs, such as buses and personal protective equipment.
The staffing costs associated with trespass enforcement, including contracted security costs, are as follows:
• Trinity Bellwoods Park – $416,690
• Alexandra Park – $200,049
• Lamport Stadium Park- $223,388
In Trinity Bellwoods Park, removal of structures and debris included almost 30 metric tonnes of general debris and almost 25 metric tonnes of contaminated grass, soil and sand. In Alexandra Park, there was 19.5 metric tonnes of debris. At Lamport Stadium Park, nine metric tonnes of debris were removed.
The enforcement followed several months of engagement with encampment occupants to encourage them to come inside where they have access to meals, laundry, medical and social supports, and a housing worker. It also followed months of threats and intimidation from protesters directed at City staff working to help homeless residents find safe, indoor shelter.
Fencing was erected at parks by the City during encampment trespass enforcement to help protect City crews and encampment occupants, as well as to allow crews to safely remove debris. Police and security were on hand during the enforcement to help ensure the safety of staff and encampment occupants, and the integrity of the protective fencing perimeter. Only when protesters indicated they would not leave the fenced area after being asked to do so – preventing City staff from doing their jobs in assisting encampment occupants – did the City request police assistance in clearing the fenced area of the parks. When an area was cleared of protesters by police, the City re-engaged with any encampment occupants who remained and began the removal of structures and debris.
Following enforcement, City staff had to take unprecedented action to remediate the park grounds for general public use. The current cost to restore the landscaping in the three parks is $792,668, broken down as follows:
• Trinity Bellwoods Park – $54,700
• Alexandra Park- $375,156
• Lamport Stadium Park – $362,812
Fencing costs for all three activities total approximately $357,000. Fencing remained in place following enforcement to allow for the repair of park grounds for general public use. Fencing was also installed or remained at the parks to allow for landscaping including, removal of sand, applications of seed and fertilizer as well as aeration, and for the inspection and removal of trees. The fencing allowed for initial growth that would not have otherwise been possible with foot traffic in freshly seeded areas. Staff evaluated progress on a weekly basis and reduced the fencing footprint as growth progressed. Full turf restoration will take more than one season. Germinating seed will be applied in the fall and additional seeding will take place in spring and fall of 2022. All fencing in these parks has now been removed.
Almost 6,640 people experiencing homelessness moved from the shelter system into permanent housing from April 2020 to August 2021. More than 1,898 people staying in encampments have been referred to safe inside spaces since April 2020.
Since the start of the pandemic, the City has referred 835 people from the four major encampments (as of Sept 1, 2021) including:
• Trinity Bellwoods Park: estimate at least 94 referred inside from May 2020 to July 23, 2021
• Alexandra Park: estimate at least 169 people referred inside May 2020 to July 21, 2021
• Lamport Stadium: at least 159 people referred inside May 2020 to July 22, 2021
• Moss Park: estimate at least 413 people referred inside May 2020 to August 25, 2021
As outlined in the City Manager’s report to City Council in June, encampments contravene several chapters of the Municipal Code and are not a solution to homelessness. The health outcomes for people who stay outside are complex and serious. Individuals living in encampments are also at risk of contracting COVID-19. The report is available at: https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2021/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-167471.pdf.
Since mid-December 2020, the City of Toronto has opened more than 570 supportive homes. This includes new modular housing, acquisitions and the City’s Rapid Rehousing Initiative that leverages Toronto Community Housing units. We’re planning to open more than 900 permanent, affordable and supportive homes over the next 12 months.
As of July 2021, there are 105 active affordable rental and supportive housing projects in the development pipeline, representing approximately 10,400 homes.
Bringing people inside means there are fewer people experiencing homelessness living outdoors and exposed to higher health and safety risks. Supportive housing offers a warm, safe place to call home; the necessities of life such as food, washrooms, and laundry facilities; and the opportunity for strengthened community connections.
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.