According to a new report released Friday, the city spent nearly $2 million this summer to move homeless people from three large camps in the parks, clearing debris and erecting fencing.
The report details the final cost of implementing 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. The total was $840,127, with Trinity Bellwoods enforcement accounting for about half of that total.
The report said that following the clearout, city employees had to take “unprecedented action” to clean up and repair the three parks to enable normal use by the public. That cost – $792,668 – includes removing 30 tons of debris and 25 tons of contaminated grass, soil and sand, the city report said.
Landscaping included the addition of seeds and fertilizers, aeration and inspection, and in some cases the removal of damaged trees.
The city report said the fencing, costing $357,000, was erected to keep people out of the parks and to give them time to make necessary repairs, including landscaping.
Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, large numbers of homeless people have set up tents and have lived in these parks, with many complaining that the city’s shelters are for them because of overcrowding, their concerns about personal safety or its spread. were unsafe. coronavirus.
But residents who rent or own homes near these parks complained that homeless people took over the parks, depriving them of places to gather, play games, walk their dogs and for their children to play. Have given.
As tensions boiled over, with Toronto police issuing trespass notices and evicting residents of the camp – at Trinity Bellwoods in late June and Alexandra Park and Lamport in late July. The evictions turned violent on 21 July when police used pepper spray on protesters and pushed them to the ground.
More than 20 people were arrested.
The parks were later opened to all residents, including a children’s summer day camp at Alexandra Park, which was closed due to encampments, a splash pad, pool, skateboard park, and community garden. Permission to use Lamport’s playground which was revoked during that camp has been resumed.
“City staff continue to help people move out of safe indoor spaces and into unsafe, unsanitary and illegal camps,” the city report said.
The city says that since the start of the pandemic it has referred 835 people from four major camps – including Moss Park, where the tents are still in place – for indoor housing.
A city spokesman said the number of people who live was not immediately available, but it is a figure. Kristin Wong-Tam wants Toronto to work to get it.
“I submitted an administrative check sheet, specifically asking (city employees) the questions – how many people were able to successfully get a passage inside the house?” He asked.
“At the end of the day the time and energy spent – did we get results and did those results persist – are people still indoors?
Wong-Tam said in an interview, “If the answer is no, people left the camp, rather scattered under bridges or in ravines, but not indoors for safe housing, then I don’t think we have completely He has achieved his (goals) since.”
The city report stated that the camps violate several chapters of the city’s municipal code and are “not a solution to homelessness”.
“The city has released the cost of cleaning up three large camps to ensure it is fully accountable for keeping city employees, homeless residents and the public safe from protesters who are completely hell-bent on confronting the authorities. was laid,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement Friday.
“The information released shows the cost of repairs from the damage our parks have suffered over time, in addition to the sacrifices made by many Toronto residents who have been denied access to these public spaces for extended periods of time. ,” he said when he went.
But City Councilor Josh Matlow took a different approach, Tweet That the money spent could go towards housing the homeless.
“It cost Toronto taxpayers $840,127.00 for 3 violent camp clearings that pushed vulnerable people into the streets, streets and other parks of our city.
“For the same cost, the Toronto (could have) CMHC provide stable housing for 58 of these people in undergraduate units on average,” Metallo tweeted, referring to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a national housing agency. Which helps Canadians access affordable housing. the option.
Zoe Dodd, a harm reduction activist and co-organizer of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, tweeted “The city admits they violently spent $2 million to evict about 60 people from camps 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 trespass enforcement and compared it to the rent dose for people in Toronto.
“If you take $600 to supplement a (monthly) rent and give it to people over a year, more than 120 people could have been hired. That’s how I saw that number the first time I saw it. ,” said Crow.