Allan Gardens Encampment Update - August 18, 2023

As the summer draws to a close, it is with a mix of cautious optimism and shared frustration that I update you on the ongoing encampment crisis within Allan Gardens.

Frustration because – like yourselves – I would have loved nothing more than for residents to have had the opportunity to utilize the grounds fully and safely this summer; picnicking, playing, and enjoying the warm weather with friends and family. At the same time, I am optimistic, as the efforts of both city and park staff have yielded encouraging advancements towards what will hopefully be an expedient and complete return of the park to its prior state.

Sadly, there are still barriers standing in our way. It was brought to my attention that fake eviction notices were recently distributed to those dwelling in the park. This cruel and unfortunate instance is an example of the type of measures that will only compound the crisis further.

It should also be noted that reactionary solutions – such as the immediate eviction of those dwelling in the encampments sites – would merely displace current numbers to other parks / areas of the city, while escalating on-site tensions further. It would not solve the epidemic of homeless, mental health, and addiction our city is facing.

Let me be clear: the only permanent solution to this crisis is affordable housing.

This cannot be done without the full cooperation of both the provincial and federal governments, working in partnership with the city. In the meantime, I am doing all that is within my power to solve the most pressing issues affecting residents. I am pleased to report the following:

Progresses Update (By the Numbers):

  • Of the 52 people currently staying at Allan Gardens, 23 now have housing plans.
  • 24 of those have been engaged by staff, with the hope of an agreement being reached very shortly.
  • 21 encampments have been removed from the park since July 22; that’s 24 truckloads of material, for a combined total of 12,460 kilograms cleared.
  • 2 new housing tenancies have been completed, with 3 lease signing currently pending.
  • Between January 1st and July 28th, there were 181 referrals to indoor accommodations by Streets to Homes.

Visit our Encampment Dashboard

Our approach is a 6-point strategy designed to treat both the symptoms and the cause of these encampments, so that we can reduce the chances of similar occurrences in the future. As follows:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Clear: any unoccupied structures whose residents have permanently vacated the premises.
  5. 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.
  6. Monitor: for any new encampments, remaining vigilant and alert.
    These numbers highlight both our success as well as the ongoing challenges staff face, and it is clear that efforts need to be redoubled to provide comprehensive support and housing solutions for those living in the park.

As outlined in my last update, it remains my primary goal to ensure that Allan Gardens remains open and available for everyone's use and enjoyment while also providing assistance to those experiencing homelessness. To do this, we’ve also implemented the following:

  • An Information & Help Centre on the south-east side of the park, which serves as a nexus for ongoing outreach efforts and as a resource for neighbours and community members to seek information and ask questions. Please note that the container will only remain in place while there is a significant need for onsite resources.
  • The Allan Gardens Community Working Group, composed of partners in the housing and homelessness services sector, whose main objective is to find permanent housing and shelter options that meet the specific needs of individuals in the encampments.
  • An Encampment Prevention Plan to limit further growth of the encampment, which provides new individuals experiencing homelessness with a referral to an available shelter space (off-site).
  • Additional onsite services, including physical and mental health care, harm reduction initiatives such as education and safe supplies, social services like identification and income support, referrals to meal programs and indoor shelter spaces, daytime drop-in options, housing supports, and fire safety information. 

I appreciate your understanding and cooperation during this process as we prioritize both the health and well-being of our residents as well as those currently experiencing homelessness in our community.

Yours in service,

Chris Moise
City Councillor
Ward 13 - Toronto Centre

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