Homeless encampment clearings cost the City of Toronto more than $1.5 million this summer
TORONTO -- The City of Toronto has released information on the cost of multiple encampment clearings that took place over the summer.
According to the city, the clearing of homeless encampments in three public parks and subsequent clean-up cost just shy of $2 million.
The city released the numbers, breaking the costs down into staffing, landscaping and fencing on Friday. The breakdown, as provided by the city, is as follows:
Staffing costs associated with trespass enforcement, including contracted security costs:
- Trinity Bellwoods Park - $416,690
- Alexandra Park - $200,049
- Lamport Stadium Park- $223,388
Landscaping restoration costs:
- Trinity Bellwoods Park - $54,700
- Alexandra Park- $375,156
- Lamport Stadium Park - $362,812
Total fencing costs: approximately $357,000
The city began clearing encampments in late June, citing safety concerns. According to the city, unregulated temporary structures present a threat of uncontrolled fires, while also breaking municipal bylaws.
“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,” a release from the city reads.
The first clearing took place in Trinity Bellwoods Park on June 22. The removal saw clashes between activists and police. Police reported “several” arrests soon afterwards and later announced three charges.
The city says that 30 metric tonnes of debris and 25 metric tonnes of “contaminated grass, soil and sand” were removed from the property following the clearing.
Approximately a month later, encampments in Lamport Stadium and Alexandra Park were removed. These clearings were also met with protests and resulted in 35 total arrests.
The city says 19.5 metric tonnes of debris were removed from Alexandra Park and nine metric tonnes were removed from Lamport Stadium.
Housing activists and protestors have been consistent in their opposition to the clearings.
In late July, the Encampment Support Network called for the resignation of Toronto Mayor John Tory, saying the encampment clearings were a “brutal assault” on the city’s homeless population.
“They are brutalizing people indiscriminately, including the residents of encampments. Tory has compared what happened at Lamport to the previous day’s eviction at Alexandra Park, saying the former was only violent because of the presence of protesters. This ignores the reality that forced displacement is in itself violent,” the group said.
The group called on the city to adopt recommendations put forward by the Toronto Drop-In Network, outlined in a document titled “A Path Forward,” which claims that forcible removal of the homeless community “has no place in a caring, compassionate society” and “does not address the issues [the city is] trying to solve.”
Those recommendations were echoed in a separate letter penned by councillors Shelley Carroll, Mike Layton, Josh Matlow, Gordon Perks and Kristyn Wong-Tam.
Since the start of the pandemic, the city says it has referred 835 people from four major encampments to indoor shelter. That includes 94 people referred from Trinity Bellwoods, 169 people referred from Alexandra Park, 159 people referred from Lamport Stadium and 413 people referred from Moss Park.
The city has not released the percentage of those individuals that ultimately secured long-term indoor housing from the referrals.
The city also says that, since mid-December 2020, it has opened more than 570 supportive homes, adding that its “planning to open more than 900 permanent, affordable and supportive homes over the next 12 months.”
The city also says that a number of amenities have been able to reopen since the clearings.
“Following enforcement, the parks have been open to all residents,” the city said.
“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 a pop-up skateboard park, and community garden [and] permits for use of the sports field at Lamport Stadium that were cancelled as a result of encampments have now resumed.”
On Thursday, the City announced that it made three additional arrests in connection with a protest that occurred outside Toronto Police’s 14 Division following the clearings in July. They also released images of eight individuals who police say are outstanding suspects in connectin with assaults on officers.
With files from CTV Toronto's Phil Tsekouras and CP24's Kerrisa Wilson.