At least two encampment inhabitants, as well as several supporters, remain at a tiny park in downtown Toronto that was only partially cleared by city officials and Toronto police on Sunday.
Clarence Square Park, located near Wellington Street and Spadina Avenue, is the green space in question. People have been sleeping there in tents and tiny shelters on and off during the outbreak.
The city, on the other hand, issued 72-hour trespass notices to its citizens just over a week ago and began enforcing those orders shortly after 7 a.m. today.
In a statement, they said eight of the park’s 10 structures were removed and two of its four “known occupants” were referred to “inside space.” One person remains on-site, while another individual has “returned to housing,” the city said.
Pointing to its commitment to a “housing first approach to street and encampment outreach and providing wrap-around, client-centred case management supports to people living outdoors, constructively, and in a non-confrontational way,” the city said member of its Streets to Homes outreach team have engaged with the residents of Clarence Square 152 times since January referring 17 of them to “indoor accommodation.”
Douglas Johnson Hatlem, a street pastor with Sanctuary Ministries and a long-time anti-poverty/housing advocate, has been helping support those staying at Clarence Square. He said six people actually lived there and expects most, if not all of them, to return in a “matter of days.”
And while things were somewhat peaceful and no arrests were made during this morning’s clearing, Hatlem said unexpectedly raiding a homeless encampment on a rainy Sunday demonstrates a “lack of respect and dignity” for those staying there.
“Not only is it violent and disrespectful, it’s also likely to be harmful in the long term,” he said, adding the city should have taken the same approach it did last summer at Dufferin Grove Park where residents were given the time to determine the best housing or shelter options that worked for them. Hatlem said he was hopeful a similar thing was underway at Clarence Square as city outreach workers had been present there just over a week ago and seemed to be interested in taking the time to work with residents. That all changed early Saturday, June 6, he said, when people at Clarence Square Park were given 72-hour trespass notices.
ESN Parkdale, which bills itself as a group of housed and unhoused neighbours supporting each other and fighting back, has also been keeping a close eye on the situation.
In a tweet, they called this morning’s “brutal and unexpected raid” the start of “another summer of violent encampment evictions.” The group said it is vowing to do what it can to support unhoused people.