City’s response to homeless encampments still causing harm to unhoused, report says


The City of Toronto’s present response to homeless encampments is not solely insufficient however can also be causing additional harm to the unhoused people who find themselves most affected, a brand new report says.

The report by the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, appears to be like on the helps out there to individuals residing in encampments final yr, how a few of these providers have been useful and likewise methods they might be improved. 

“The largest factor individuals wanted and needed was everlasting housing and that was the factor they didn’t get,” mentioned Zoe Dodd, a neighborhood scholar with the centre.

The report, launched Friday, follows the controversial eviction of homeless encampments from three Toronto parks in the summertime of 2021. Many unhoused individuals selected to stay in these encampments slightly than danger contracting COVID-19 within the metropolis’s shelters. According to the 83-page report, 127 surveys have been performed, together with 23 interviews with present or former encampment residents throughout Toronto. Researchers additionally interviewed 16 outreach employees and volunteers from quite a lot of organizations and teams.

“I feel the stark factor is that individuals felt fairly deserted when it comes to the assistance they wanted, however then there have been neighbours and individuals who stepped up,” Dodd mentioned.

The report says the examine demonstrates the community-based outreach helps offered to encampment residents through the COVID-19 pandemic have been extremely useful for his or her survival and well-being, and that residents had a terrific appreciation for the social relationships that developed with outreach volunteers and employees.

Zoe Dodd is a neighborhood scholar with the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions and one of many authors of the report titled “Evaluation of Encampment Outreach Supports throughout COVID-19.” (Submitted by Zoe Dodd)

The report’s abstract goes on to say housing-specific outreach, sometimes by Streets to Homes of the City of Toronto, was much less profitable at assembly the wants of encampment residents, most of whom expressed an ongoing pressing want for everlasting housing choices, slightly than the normal shelter and shelter lodge beds town provided. 

The clearing of the three massive encampments final summer time sparked an investigation by town ombudsman. The metropolis says in July it accepted all the ombudsman’s suggestions within the interim report, together with updating town outreach initiative plan and higher defining and speaking the position and mandate of town’s Encampment Office.

Dodd says she believes there have been numerous misconceptions about individuals residing in encampments, together with the belief that the individuals residing in them have been unhoused prior to the pandemic. She says solely 17 per cent of these surveyed had stayed in an encampment earlier than March 2020.

“We’ve listed over 40 suggestions we expect town ought to hear to, mirror on and implement. One of our largest suggestions is for town to divest from enforcement — the place they spent some huge cash —and really put these into neighborhood led helps and into everlasting housing,” she mentioned.

Committed to ‘housing first strategy,’ metropolis says

In a written assertion launched Monday, town says it is conscious of the just lately launched report and says it welcomes suggestions from the neighborhood and people with “lived expertise.” It says addressing encampments is a “complicated social concern.”

“The metropolis is dedicated to a housing first strategy to road and encampment outreach and offering wrap-around, client-centred case administration helps to individuals residing open air,” the assertion mentioned. 

The metropolis goes on to say that outreach employees go to varied websites each day to work with encampment occupants on referrals to indoor lodging and to join them with a housing employee.

“This engagement course of continues as soon as an individual accepts an inside area to assist guarantee they’ve ongoing assist and entry to providers,” town wrote. 

Demonstrators making an attempt to topple a fence are pepper sprayed by Toronto law enforcement officials imposing an eviction order at an encampment at Lamport Stadium in July of 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“The metropolis can not drive individuals to come inside and avail themselves of the various providers provided by town, however residing in an encampment in a metropolis park is unhealthy and unlawful.”

Earlier this yr, town confronted widespread criticism when a plan grew to become public to spend $1 million in a bid to rent personal safety corporations to patrol parks as a means of deterring encampments.

With the rising price of hire, rising strain on shelters and the winter season looming, Dodd says the suggestions must be checked out with urgency. She says the truth is encampments will proceed to exist in its place shelter possibility.

“Taking an enforcement strategy or surveillance strategy to people who find themselves struggling to survive, it isn’t the form of compassion we wish to see.”


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