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The city breaks down the costs of enforcing trespass notices at Trinity Bellwoods, Lamport Stadium and Alexandra Park
The city of Toronto spent nearly $2 million clearing homeless people from encampments at Trinity Bellwoods, Lamport Stadium and Alexandra Park.
On Friday, officials release a financial breakdown of how much it cost to put up fencing, clear structures, pay for staff and private security and clean up park grounds.
The city spent $840,127 to enforce trespass notices issued to encampment residents – with the Bellwoods clearing accounting for nearly half that total – plus another $792,668 for what it calls “unprecedented action to remediate the park grounds for public use.”
The costs included removing almost 30 metric tonnes of material and almost 25 metric tonnes of contaminated grass, soil and sand from Trinity Bellwoods Park. Officials cleared 19.5 metric tonnes of debris at Alexandra Park and nine metric tonnes at Lamport Stadium Park, the city said.
The total cost to put up fencing was approximately $357,000. City staff kept the fencing in place following the clearings to restore landscaping, remove sand, seed, fertilize and aerate the grounds, as well as inspect and remove trees. The fencing has no been removed.
“The fencing allowed for initial growth that would not have otherwise been possible with foot traffic in freshly seeded areas,” the city said in a statement. “Full turf restoration will take more than one season. Germinating seed will be applied in the fall and additional seeding will take place in spring and fall of 2022.”
Many people without access to permanent housing moved into tents and other structures in city parks after the pandemic began in early 2020. People experiencing homelessness and their supporters said shelters and other temporary housing solutions created by the city were unsafe, overcrowded, at a higher risk of COVID-19 spread than living outside, and restrictive.
Meanwhile, neighbours complained to the city that they were unable to use the parks and other services due to the encampments. When city staff, backed by dozens of police officers and private security, arrived to clear the encampments at Trinity Bellwoods and Lamport Stadium, they were met by protestors, leading to violent scenes of police officers forcibly removing demonstrators.
The clearings were swiftly condemned by housing activists and human rights lawyers.
Officials maintain the encampments are illegal, unhealthy and unsafe. There have been 150 fire calls to encampments, including 90 for uncontrolled fires as of September 16, the city said.
The city said nearly 6,640 people experiencing homelessness were moved into permanent housing between April 2020 and August 2021. Staff have also referred 835 people from the four major encampments to “safe inside spaces” between May and August.
It cost Toronto taxpayers $840,127.00 for 3 violent encampment clearings that simply pushed vulnerable people to our city’s laneways, streets and other parks. For the same cost, Toronto could’ve provided stable housing for
58 of these people in bachelor units at the CMHC average. pic.twitter.com/28vInf8GQ9— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) September 17, 2021
News of the city’s encampment clearing bill was met with condemnation from housing activists and city councillor Josh Matlow who tweeted that “Toronto could’ve provided stable housing for 58 of these people in bachelor units at the CMHC average.”
“The City admits they spent $2 million violently evicting about 60 people from the encampments in the parks. Imagine what we could have done with $2 million,” tweeted Toronto Overdose Prevention Society co-organizer Zoe Dodd.
The City admits they spent $2 million violently evicting about 60 people from the encampments in the parks. Imagine what we could have done with $2 million.— Zoë Dodd (@ZoeDodd) September 17, 2021
According to city data, the number of people actively experiencing homelessness in Toronto rose by 207 by the end of August for a total of 8,479. The number has been on a steady incline since dipping in the spring months.
There city’s shelter system has space for 6,290 people, according to Fact Check Toronto.