encampment toronto

Toronto will continue evictions in other encampments and people have concerns

After a tense and at times violent clearing of a tent encampment at Toronto's Trinity Bellwoods park this week, some may be wondering what will happen to the city's other encampments.

Accused of a heavy-handed approach, Toronto had police in tactile gear and a private security company present to evict about 20 to 25 people living in the encampment in Trinity Bellwoods on Tuesday.

Trinity Bellwoods is not the only encampment in the city. The Encampment Support Network has supported encampments in Parkdale, Scadding Court, Little Norway Park, Moss Park and Cherry Beach.

In his Tuesday press conference, Mayor John Tory said he supported the eviction Tuesday as a measure to move people to safer housing. He felt the police response came out of the fact that many protesters showed up.

When asked if the city has plans to evict people from other encampments, he didn't provide a clear answer.

"We made no secret of the fact that we don't think these encampments are safe," he said.

He said staff have made 20,000 visits to encampments to try to get people to move on to other housing options. The bottom line is the city will continue this work.

"You cannot have unsafe, unhealthy, illegal encampments in public parks in particular but on other public property as well," Tory said.

In particular he wants to remove tents and open the parks for summer parks programming and permitting requirements including for summer camps.

"There does come a time when you have to take action on these things and I just we are there in the context of having spent months trying to do it a different way."

Asked if the city could reduce the large police presence, Tory said he wasn't a part of the decision-making on the police response nor was he involved in the decision to put a fence around the park.

"They were there to protect the safety of the city workers both Parks and Recreation workers and the Streets to Homes workers," he said.

He said staff members have had weapons pulled on them and been followed after speaking with people in the encampments.

But he did suggest there should be a full review of how to do approach this situation differently in the future.

Tory also said the housing offered includes supportive housing, hotels and shelters.

Many people have said they feel safer in tents, particularly during COVID-19 outbreaks.

People living alone in hotels have suffered overdoses.

"We have added supports to the hotels," Tory said.

From April 2020 to June 22, 2021, Streets to Homes and community partner agencies have referred almost 1,730 people from encampments to spaces with meals, laundry and a bathroom, harm reduction, physical and mental health supports and connection to a housing worker, Kris Scheuer a Toronto media relations spokesperson tells blogTO.

This includes more than 500 people referred inside from Moss Park, Lamport Stadium, Alexandra Park and Trinity-Bellwoods.

On June 22, out of the 20 to 25 people, 12 people took the city's offer of housing, another nine people who were offered service declined and left on their own, Scheuer says. On Wednesday, two more people accepted inside space.

The city continues to insist that encampments are not a solution to homelessness and they are dangerous. At least 114 fires have been reported in encampments so far this year, including nine in the past week, Scheuer says.

But as housing prices climb and new condos squeeze out affordable options, the question is where are people supposed to go for permanent, safe housing.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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