TORONTO (CITYNEWS) – Toronto city workers cleared out a homeless encampment under the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto on Wednesday, following a fire over the weekend.
Eviction notices were issued at several illegal camping sites around the city in January, allowing street outreach workers enough time to connect people in need of new shelter with city services before the camps are torn down.
“We recognize not everyone wants to (go to a shelter),” said Brad Ross, chief communications officer with the City of Toronto. “However, at some point the city has to clear out those encampments and that’s all about safety.”
No one was injured in the fire that broke out at the Gardiner camp over the weekend, but Ross said the city needed to clear the camp before something worse happened.
“We have an obligation as a city to ensure the safety of the individuals who are living in these encampments but also the public in general,” Ross said. “There is a lot of debris on these sites and if there were to be a larger fire, for example, it becomes incredibly dangerous.”
As the weather warms, Ross acknowledges people will continue to illegally camp in parks and ravines but he says workers have been successful in helping people find permanent housing.
The city also offers services such as help with securing identification cards and social insurance numbers and finding employment.