“It’s the bread and butter of what we do as a city, to keep our city clean,” the councilor said. Denzil Minnan-Wong said at some point during Wednesday’s city council meeting.
The ongoing discussion centered on damaged trash cans on city streets, a topic that has prompted heated remarks about public cleanliness from elected officials everywhere.
But Minnan-Wong’s statement could just as well apply to the city’s response to homelessness, a complex and intractable problem that Toronto has decided to solve like a broken trash can: If there’s a mess, clean it up. -the.
Last year, the city spent nearly $2 million cleaning up homeless encampments in Toronto parks — encampments, it’s important to note, that were erected during a housing crisis amid of a pandemic.
Now it looks like the city is stepping up its efforts on private security tactics.
News emerged this week that Toronto will pay private security guards to patrol select city parks 24/7 in an effort to completely prevent encampments from forming. According to CBC reporter Nicole Brockbank, who broke the story, the plan is for private security guards to notify city staff whenever a new tent is erected at popular parks like Trinity Bellwoods and Dufferin Grove.
In a statement shared with the Star, city spokesman Brad Ross said that “if a contracted security guard sees a structure or tent being erected in a park, or one already in place , he will immediately contact the city and the Streets to Homes teams will do so quickly. engage with camp occupants, providing services and safe indoor accommodation. Contracted service will be performed by the City’s corporate security personnel.
The cost of this security-to-security operation is currently unknown, but regardless of the figure, it is a profound waste of resources. In other words, it is a huge waste of resources if a government’s goal is to reduce homelessness: a goal that requires building trust with rough sleepers and providing them with opportunities permanent and secure housing.
On the other hand, if a government’s goal is simply to clear a space of these people, the city’s plan to discourage encampment via private security may well prove successful. We know that when an encampment is emptied, its inhabitants move elsewhere in the city; to other parks or ravines where they are less vulnerable to detection. They still don’t have a house, but are not within sight or earshot of people who have a house.
“It is extremely indicative of the City of Toronto’s priorities that it is currently continuing 24/7 monitoring of visible downtown parks this summer,” says Diana Chan McNally, a support worker from proximity to Toronto.
“Keep in mind that there is still a shortage of accommodation available for people without accommodation and the accommodation system is operating at almost 100% capacity. The city does not provide the resources to address homelessness and instead works to monitor and criminalize encampments.
On Thursday, I spoke with a man named Jordan who currently lives in a downtown park near the Toronto waterfront. He’s been living on the outside for two years now, avoiding the shelter system so he “wouldn’t have to deal with the addictions and fights” that go on there. He told me he had been on a list of subsidized housing for six years. He wants safe and permanent housing.
Why, unless he is less important in himself than a person with a home, should he be forced to move into a situation in which he does not feel safe so that someone another can walk in a park without being tainted by his presence?
It is undoubtedly frustrating to the city government that many people living in encampments are unwilling to move inside city-run facilities, but this reluctance does not justify evicting them from public parks. This is a justification for providing permanent housing solutions by any means necessary. And this policy is a waste of these means.
“That begs the question,” the adviser said. Mike Layton said to me, ‘Why would we just have security guards walking through the parks when we could actually have more support workers who have experience with a homeless population and housing issues? Mental Health? We have these people in the city. We use them. We could double down on this approach.
The city would probably say they’ve exhausted that approach. In a statement shared with the Star, Mayor John Tory said “pandemic encampments” shut down community amenities, including parks and summer camps. “I support our professional City of Toronto staff who are doing everything in their power to try to prevent large out-of-control encampments like the ones we saw during the height of the pandemic. Public parks must be safe, open and accessible to all residents,” Tory added.
On this last point, we all agree. But while Torontonians have a right to public space in our city, we have no right to ignore the poverty found there. Every spring and summer, this poverty manifests itself in our parks. He will make a name for himself again this season, no matter how many dollars the city throws at private security guards.
Law enforcement is no match for homelessness. Surveillance is no match for homelessness. Only fireplaces are.
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Security guards won’t stop homelessness in Toronto – homes will – Reuters News in France and abroad
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