The City of Toronto has applied for a court injunction to stop those who are building unsafe wooden structures and illegally depositing them on City property, including in parks and on City rights-of-way. The structures are not legal dwellings and the City’s Parks Bylaw and Streets Use Bylaw prohibit camping and placing tents or structures on City property. The injunction application was filed by the City with the Superior Court of Justice on February 12, 2021.
The enforcement of the Parks Bylaw was upheld by a court decision last fall when the Ontario Superior Court of Justice acknowledged that the “City has taken many steps in its shelter system to respond to COVID-19.”
The City’s operating divisions have serious safety concerns with these structures and determined it was necessary to ask the courts to order that construction, illegal placement and/or relocation of these structures on City property be halted.
There are numerous safety risks that exist in encampments including fires, gasoline generators, propane tanks, overdose, and lack of access to water and sanitation.
On Wednesday, February 17, sadly, one person died in an encampment fire that involved a wooden structure. There were at least two other fires involving wooden structures: one in December at Moss Park and one in January at Holy Trinity Church. In 2020, Toronto Fire Services responded to 253 fires in encampments – a 250% increase over the same period in 2019. So far this year, there have been 27 fires in encampments. Fires in encampments pose not only a danger to those living in encampments, but also to first responders and the broader community.
Before any encampment sites are cleared, or an occupied structure is removed from a site on City property, the City’s Streets to Homes team and City-funded partner agencies continually engage with those sleeping outside to encourage them to either come into a shelter or consider the various housing options that are available. Since last April, at least 1,337 people have taken the City up on its offer safer indoor space.
As well, in 2020 through to the end of this January, the City has successfully housed more than 3,220 people who were homeless in shelters into permanent housing with a combination of housing allowances and rent-geared-to-income units.
The City is also taking urgent action on creating and opening affordable homes with support services for those exiting homelessness. Since mid-December the City has opened 220 affordable, supportive homes specifically geared to people experiencing homelessness at 11 Macey Ave., 321 Dovercourt Rd. and 389 Church St. The City is also accelerating the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan , which targets the approval of 40,000 new affordable rental homes including 18,000 supportive homes over the next 10 years.
In 2021, the City is aiming to make a total of 1,248 new affordable housing opportunities ready for occupancy, including 798 net new affordable rental homes under the Action Plan. Funding to provide support services for 1,098 of the total 1,248 housing opportunities still needs to be secured from the federal and provincial governments.
More than 6,000 people stay in City shelters on any given night. Since the start of the pandemic, at least 40 new shelter locations, including in hotels, were opened to ensure physical distancing. This is in addition to the 75 base shelters run by the City and by City-funded agencies. As well, a recovery and isolation site was established for anyone experiencing homelessness who tests positive for COVID-19 to be able to safely recover while protecting others from the virus. To learn more, visit here
The City remains focused on the safety of those in encampments and referring clients sleeping outdoors into safe indoor spaces including shelter programs, hotel spaces and housing options with supports as space becomes available. A key determent of health is housing and the City remains committed and steadfast in helping anyone who wants to come inside, including obtaining permanent housing. Illegally depositing structures on City property will be enforced to ensure the health and well-being of those experiencing homelessness, as well as to ensure parks can be safely enjoyed by every Toronto resident.
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.
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