Toronto: City Officials Demolish a Homeless Camp
Toronto City officials, have demolished a makeshift homeless camp located under the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto, says a report on The Star. The camp had been set up on Lake Shore Blvd. West near Lower Simcoe and city workers were seen recently, rummaging through personal belongings of the homeless residents of the camp, such as their bikes, blankets, plastic containers, mats, and small bags. The occupants of the camp were nowhere in sight as a city truck and a loader cleared rubbish from the camp causing traffic on Lake Shore Blvd. W.
According to Brad Ross, the city’s chief communications officer, the city had earlier sent eviction notices in January, and even though the camp on Lakeshore Blvd. W. was the only one targeted that day, city officials still had intentions to clear other similar camps and would continue to help the camp’s residents find space in the city’s shelter system.
“We recognize that not all individuals are prepared to come inside, to engage with us,” he said. “But we continue to work with them to provide whatever supports they may need.”
One of the camp residents, Dexter Wolfgang, who was seen packing his belongings a few metres away was interviewed by The Star, he said
“You have to be ready to move, anytime,” He appeared unfazed by the demolition and noted that his stuff is always packed and ready to be pulled away with his quad bicycle. “I will move to another spot somewhere, and I will probably be back here again.”
He explained he had received an eviction notice which had required him to remove materials and debris stored on the public’s right of way, and the notice had warned that “failure to comply will result in removal by city forces.”
“What they’re doing is stupid. They should give us housing,” said Dexter, noting he has been homeless since 2003, moving around the city with his stuff.
The city claims they are demolishing these homeless camps due to several concerns about public and individual safety in the camps as there had been recent reports of a fire incident. He said the city is still trying to provide alternatives to the homeless residents of the camp.
"It's a fine balance," he said. "We can't force anybody to come inside. But at the same time, we need to make sure public and personal safety are maintained at all times."
City staff had earlier backed down from an intended eviction in January, telling the residents to pack up and come for spaces in city shelters. The city claims it had let the residents know they are violating city rules and their possessions could be moved. However, several shelters were near capacity this winter, and residents told the Star that they had nowhere else to go.
Several citizens appear horrified by the city’s decision to evict the homeless. Massoud Abbasi, quoted on Narcity.com says, “It’s hard to believe this continues to happen in Toronto. For a city as wealthy and burgeoning as us, our homelessness rates are unacceptable, and the actions we imposed on the homeless even worse.”