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Toronto continues to see homeless encampments pop up throughout the city in public squares and parks everyday as vulnerable people look for spaces to stay safe—many of them negatively affected by the pandemic.
The encampments are estimated to have approximately 2,500 people in them with tent cities popping up in Trinity Bellwoods, Moss Park, Allan A. Lamport Stadium Park, Dufferin Grove and other areas alongside roadways, according to BlogTO.
The options for many people come down to staying in a donated tent or a potentially unsafe shelter. Premier Doug Ford believes people should choose shelters saying “you just can’t” camp in parks.
"I understand you want to stay outside in a tent. It's probably better living quarters, but that's an ongoing issue," he said during a press conference on Wednesday. "Just don't hang out in the parks."
The issue has been going on for some time in Toronto and the city has been taking down encampments below bridges including the Gardiner Expressway. Advocates have called for the city to leave the tent cities alone, claiming that the actions are more harmful than helpful.
"They don't like the shelters. They don't like staying there. They say some people get beat up. Their stuff gets stolen. They'd rather put a tent out in a park," said Ford. "But, guys, you can't do it in the public park, you just can't."
Ford’s government has pledged about $200 million towards Toronto’s emergency shelter space.
This is the first time tent cities have come in such great numbers to the Toronto and the situation is hard to ignore for many. Coronavirus has had a severe impact on the shelter system, as over 600 people staying in facilities run by the city have been infected since March.
City officials have made efforts to accommodate people living in the tough conditions but activists don’t think it is enough and argue that affordable rental housing is the answer.
"You can't be doing it underneath the Gardiner. It looks terrible. We have tourists from around the world, not now, but when we did before," Ford said when speaking to reporters on Wednesday. "You know, you just can't do that."
Bylaws in the city of Toronto do not allow people to lodge or camp in a city park.
"Unless authorized by permit, no person shall place, install, attach or erect a temporary or permanent tent, structure or shelter at, in or to a park," says the Toronto Municipal Code.
"I wish I could tell you where to hang out, but I know it's tough in these shelters," Ford added. "But we're giving the money to the municipalities and we're going to be giving more money to the municipalities to help out."