Toronto spent nearly $ 2 million cleaning up homeless camps at Trinity Bellwoods, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium

The city spent nearly $ 2 million to get the homeless out of three large park camps this summer, clearing up debris and erecting fences, according to a new report released Friday.

The report details the final costs for applying trespassing notices to people setting up tents at Trinity Bellwoods Park, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium.

The financial breakdown included money for city and private security, Toronto police, fire and paramedics, debris removal and personal protective equipment. That total came to $ 840,127, and the Trinity Bellwoods app was responsible for nearly half of that total.

The report notes that after the cleanup, city staff had to take “unprecedented steps” to clean and repair the three parks to allow general use by the public. That cost – $ 792,668 – included the removal of 30 tons of debris and 25 tons of contaminated grass, soil and sand, according to the city report.

Landscaping included seed and fertilizer placement, aeration and inspection, and in some cases removal of damaged trees.

Fences were put up at a cost of $ 357,000 to keep people out of the parks and allow time to make necessary repairs, including landscaping, the city report says.

Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, large numbers of homeless people have pitched tents and lived in these parks, with many complaining that they felt the city shelters were not safe for them due to their concerns. about overcrowding, personal safety or population spread. coronavirus.

But residents who rent or own houses near these parks complained that the parks were occupied by homeless people, depriving them of places to gather, play sports, walk their dogs and for their children to play.

After simmering tensions simmered, the city along with Toronto police arrived after issuing illegal entry notices and removing the inhabitants of the camp, in late June at Trinity Bellwoods and late July in Alexandra Park. and Lamport. The July 21 eviction turned violent when police used pepper spray against protesters and pushed them to the ground.

More than 20 people were arrested.

Later, the parks were opened to all residents, including for the children’s summer camps at Alexandra Park that had been closed due to the campgrounds, a splash pad, a swimming pool, a skateboard park, and a community garden. Since then, permits to use the Lamport sports field that had been canceled during that camp have been resumed.

“City staff continue to help people move into safe indoor spaces and out of illegal, unhealthy and unsafe camps,” the city report says.

The city says that since the start of the pandemic it has referred 835 people from four main camps, including Moss Park, where the tents are still in place, to indoor dwellings.

A city spokesman said the number of those staying housed was not immediately available, but it is a Coun figure. Kristyn Wong-Tam wants Toronto to work towards it.

“I sent an administrative inquiry letter, specifically asking (city staff) those questions: How many people were able to successfully get a path inside?” she asked.

“At the end of the day, time and energy wasted, did we get the results and did those results stick? Are the people still inside?

“If the answer is no, that people left the camps and instead dispersed under bridges or ravines, but not inside safe accommodation, then I don’t think we have fully achieved our (goals),” he said. Wong-Tam in an interview.

The camps contravene several chapters of the city’s Municipal Code and “are not a solution for the homeless,” the city report says.

“The city has released the costs of the three large camp clearings to be fully accountable for what was needed to ensure that city personnel, homeless residents, and the public were kept safe from protesters absolutely hell-bent on confront the authorities, “said Mayor John. Tory said in a statement Friday.

“The information released also shows the cost of repairing our parks from the damage caused over time by the camps, in addition to the sacrifice made by many Toronto residents who were denied the use of these public spaces for a period of time. prolonged time ”, he added. to say.

But Councilman Josh Matlow took a different approach, tweeting that the money spent could have been used to house the homeless.

“It cost Toronto taxpayers $ 840,127.00 for 3 violent camp clearings that simply pushed vulnerable people into the alleys, streets and other parks of our city.

“For the same cost, Toronto (could have) provided stable housing for 58 of these people in undergraduate units on the average CMHC,” Matlow tweeted, referring to the Housing and Mortgage Corporation of Canada, a national housing agency that helps Canadians access affordable housing. options.

Zoë Dodd, Harm Reduction Worker and Co-Organizer of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, tweeted “The city admits they spent $ 2 million violently evicting about 60 people from campgrounds in the parks. Imagine what we could have done with $ 2 million. “

In an interview, Cathy Crowe, a street nurse in Toronto, referred to the $ 840,000 price tag for rape law enforcement and compared it to rental supplements for people in Toronto.

“If you take $ 600 for a (monthly) rental supplement and give it to people for a year, more than 120 people could have been housed. That’s how I first saw that number when I saw it, ”Crowe said.

Leave a Comment