On Tuesday, June 22, Toronto police and security forcibly removed a homeless encampment at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Dozens of officers were present, some dressed in full-on riot gear and others on horseback, the demonstration was very off-putting to see. Members who were at the encampment to protect those residing there were pepper-sprayed as things escalated, and a few demonstrators were arrested, including journalist Ian Willms. Many have called the arrest completely unreasonable and even claimed for this to be silencing journalist voices around controversial issues like this one.
The city has made efforts to use their “Pathway Inside” program to help “relocate” homeless people, and while their efforts are seen, the legal action against homeless people is quite unnecessary. The police presence most definitely heightened tensions that were already high. Many of those who live next to the park have expressed their support for their neighbors in tents, advocating for them to be able to choose the safest options for themselves, and noting that the many stereotypes about homeless people are harmful and untrue.
Ultimately, most shelters in the city are not deemed safe, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse. With a health crisis and a housing crisis, it makes it impossible for homeless individuals to find a place to stay that is safe, clean, and accessible to them. There is an urgent need for long-term housing for these individuals, not a hotel room, but a home.
The issue with funding dozens of officers to remove homeless people from areas within the city is that it does not solve the problem of homelessness. John Tory explained in a press conference that the city was offering several forms of short-term housing, but many of those who reside in these encampments are looking for a permanent home. Rather than funding the police, the city of Toronto should be investing in affordable housing for all, so that no one in the city needs to resort to living in a tent.
Things turned violent on Tuesday, and sacred practices were disrespected by Toronto police and “peacekeepers”, leaving a lasting impression on those fighting for affordable housing and ending the forced displacement of homeless people. John Tory has requested a full review of everything that took place on Tuesday, although he claims no responsibility for the actions of the police and peacekeepers, quite typical.
At the end of the day, everyone deserves a safe place to rest, bathe, eat and live. Homeless people do not have that luxury, nor do they trust city officials who put the interests of individuals with money above all else. Homeless individuals deserve the basic necessities of life, and they deserve to reside in places that are safe for them, that are permanent and affordable.
Please visit Fred Victor for more information on how you can help the homeless crisis in Toronto. Remember that homeless people are people too.