As the fall season comes to a close, I'm pleased to bring you an encouraging update on the encampment at Allan Gardens. Amidst the challenges we've faced, our united and unwavering efforts, guided by the city's Housing First strategy, have led to significant strides in addressing the encampment issue.
Our collaborative efforts have paid off in incredible ways. Since the beginning of the year, we've successfully housed 71 individuals from the Allan Gardens encampment and made an additional 243 referrals to indoor housing. Of note, the encampment has seen a remarkable 75% decrease since its peak in July - a testament to the continual hard work and dedication of the outreach staff that make this all possible. You can review our progress on our Encampment Dashboard below.
Through regular Task Force Meetings with city department heads, I’ve ensured sustained focus on this important issue. We now have three teams providing 24/7 security in the park, a Community Safety Team, and an Encampment Trailer on the south side of the park for City Housing Workers to operate from.
In a significant step forward, and echoing the community's requests, I'm thrilled to announce that two anti-encroachment signs have now been installed in the southwest quadrant of the park in addition to the signage already existing on the west side of the park. This move aligns with our overall strategy of encampment prevention.
Our approach is a six-point strategy:
Engage: those individuals willing to speak with staff in order to determine the most appropriate solution. This often requires patience, openness, and a willingness to understand that no one chooses sub-optimal living conditions (such as living in an encampment), but is rather forced to by circumstances often beyond the individual's control.
Offer: those individuals whom staff have engaged in conversation by providing a pathway to housing (subject to availability). It is important to remember that not all residents of the park immediately accept offers for housing / shelter, which means staff must continue to engage and build rapport in order to convince these individuals.
Provide: housing and / or shelter space to individuals if available, as well as other wraparound services such as mental health and addiction treatment, in order to get to the root cause of the crisis.
Clear: any unoccupied structures whose residents have permanently vacated the premises.
Install: signage to ensure future encampments do not proliferate. The City cannot install signage within an area that is currently occupied, but can (and have) in Allan Gardens once the preceding measures have been enacted.
Monitor: for any new encampments, remaining vigilant and alert.
I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the city staff, our outreach teams, partner organizations, and community residents for their unwavering commitment to this cause. Let's continue to work together for the good of our community.
Yours in service,
Ward 13 - Toronto Centre