As we approach the Spring season, we are anticipating warmer weather, and our communities want to spend more time in our green spaces. My goal is to ensure that Allan Gardens can be enjoyed by everyone in our community through the spring and summer seasons, and I continue working with City Staff to address the encampments in Allan Gardens.
I am disappointed to report that since my last update, there has been an increase of individuals encamped in Allan Gardens. There are currently 33 tents and 25 individuals in Allan Gardens; an increase of 6 tents and 14 individuals. Recent safety incidents, including stabbings, fires and overdoses in Allan Gardens, continue to exacerbate concerns of the community both in and around the park. This is also very concerning and frustrating for me.
Contracted corporate security guards have now been on-site 24/7 to address any public safety issues and prevent further debris from being brought into the park.
Earlier this month, I visited Allan Gardens with City Staff to walk through the park and meet some of the individuals living in tents in Allan Gardens. I then convened a meeting with the City Manager and the General Manager of Shelter Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) along with staff from the Office of Emergency Management, Parks, and Streets to Homes to request they put together a short-term and medium-term plan to offer everyone currently in the park either permanent housing or safe indoor accommodations with supports as soon as possible and to return the park to a vibrant space that can be enjoyed by everyone this summer.
City Staff have explored using spaces at Seaton House and Dan Harrison to ensure people have options to stay in our community. They reported that Seaton House is currently sheltering 232 people, which is the maximum capacity based on the elimination of bunk beds and physical distancing requirements. SSHA introduced a winter program at the location in November 2022, which added approximately 80 additional clients to the program. They also reported that Dan Harrison only has a vacancy rate of 7.7% and that Streets to Homes currently has 6 of the vacancies available on offer to clients living in Allan Gardens. To date, 14 people from Allan Gardens have moved into vacant Toronto Community Housing units in the downtown east. Staff continue to use all opportunities to access the TCHC units, including at Dan Harrison, for people living in Allan Gardens.
As of last week, the Encampment Office will be present in the park daily and will be doubling its hours in the park to enhance the coordination of City services. Streets to Homes has increased its partnered agency presence in the park and continue to reach out to other agencies that may be able to support encampment residents.
The bottom line is, we need permanent solutions to break the cycle we have been stuck in. Over the coming months, the city is expected to deliver more deeply affordable and supportive homes with the financial support of the Federal Government through their Rapid Housing Initiative, which requires sites to be identified and built within 18 months of receiving the funding. This is currently the most realistic plan to provide the critical permanent housing solutions we need to achieve zero encampments in Allan Gardens.
Despite all efforts, there are 8 individuals who continue to decline all support and services. City Staff continue to work hard to build relationships and trust with these individuals. I will continue to make Allan Gardens my top priority and meet with City Staff on a weekly basis until there are no more encampments in the park.
I’d like to thank City Staff and our community agency partners for their hard work in outreach and for securing housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. I’d also like to thank residents for their patience and understanding as we work through these complex circumstances.
Yours in service,
Ward 13 - Toronto Centre