This morning, the City of Toronto will enforce trespass notices issued at Trinity Bellwoods Park on June 12. All individuals experiencing homelessness in this encampment, estimated at 20 to 25 people, will be offered safe, indoor space, with access to meals, showers and laundry, harm reduction, physical and mental health supports, and a housing worker. Occupants will be given time to pack two bags of belongings to take with them. All other belongings will be collected and stored for up to 30 days for future pickup. There are approximately 65 structures on-site.
The Toronto Police Service will be present to ensure the safety of encampment residents and City workers. The City remains focused on providing a human services response to encampments and peaceful, voluntary referrals for people sleeping outdoors to safer, inside space.
As outlined in the recent City Manager’s report to City Council, 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 risk of fires is also high. There have been 114 fire events in encampments so far this year, including nine in the past week. In 2020, Toronto Fire Services responded to 253 fires in encampments – a 247 per cent increase over the same period in 2019. The risk of serious injury or death to residents of encampments, as a result of fire, is extremely high. Since 2010, seven people have lost their lives as a result of fires in encampments in Toronto.
City parks must also be safe and accessible to all residents of Toronto. The City will restore its parks while also helping as many people who are willing to accept the City’s offers of support.
There are an estimated 60 to 80 people staying in encampments at Lamport Stadium, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Moss Park and Alexandra Park, with far more tents and makeshift structures (more than 200) in those encampments than people.
The City of Toronto continues to assist and protect people experiencing homelessness through COVID-19 vaccination, an increased focus on infection and prevention control (IPAC) measures in the shelter system, a pilot COVID-19 rapid testing program for new shelter residents, and referring people to safer inside space with supports. Please see June 18 news release for more information.
Since mid-December 2020 the City has opened 244 new affordable and supportive homes, including 100 modular housing units. Currently, there are 82 projects in the City’s affordable rental development pipeline, which will create 10,676 new permanently affordable rental homes once completed. And over the next 12 months, the City is aiming to make at least 1,248 new permanent affordable and supportive housing opportunities ready for occupancy. This includes 798 net new affordable and supportive rental homes under the HousingTO action plan.
When a person chooses to live in supportive housing, they have a warm, safe place to call home; can access the necessities of life such as food, washrooms, and laundry; can begin to heal from the damage caused by living outside; and strengthen community connections.
On June 11, the City announced a partnership with University Health Network Gattuso Centre for Social Medicine and United Way Greater Toronto to create 51 modular supportive homes in the Parkdale neighbourhood to provide programs and services following the Social Medicine model. On June 16, the City further announced that it would create supportive housing through the acquisition of buildings located at 292-296 Parliament St., beginning at the end of this year, which will provide new supportive housing for individuals experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.
The City’s response to encampments takes into consideration the health and well-being of those living outside and the broader community needs, including access to green space for safe outdoor recreation during the pandemic, and upcoming summer parks programming and permitting requirements including for summer camps.
The City has an interdivisional response to encampments and will enforce bylaws at encampments after exhausting all options to help people move from encampments to safer, indoor spaces. Space remains available for all those living in encampments in the City’s shelters and its hotel program.
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