Remove Encampments from Parks While Fixing the Broader System of Wrap Around Services

“Olivia Chow wants to normalize encampments, but I don’t. Her plan will do nothing to stop them.” – Mark Saunders

Toronto - Mark Saunders announced today that as Mayor, he would stop normalizing encampments in city parks and would take action to remove them.

“We can’t abandon our most vulnerable to this kind of degradation and squalor,” said Saunders.

Encampments are growing in number throughout the city, but they are especially severe in Allan Gardens – a historical piece of Toronto that has beautified the City with its conservatory and park for almost 145 years. Today, despite being located within a high-density area, there are no local residents enjoying the park. Residents are scared to walk through the park or play in it with their kids and pets because of the many tents, needles, and criminal behaviour.

“Encampments need to be removed, but this needs to go hand-in-hand with fixing our current support system, which is disjointed and an all-around failure for those who need it most,” said Saunders. “Someone in crisis gets help from one agency, and then they're sent out the door with no one there to pick them up for the next step of the process, so they're back out on the street.”

Saunders talked about this plan for mental health and addictions a few weeks ago. Key components include:

  • Developing a wrap-around services strategy that recognizes a continuum of care between the City, Toronto Public Health and the network of community service providers to improve connectivity and coordination so that clients can easily and seamlessly access the specific supports they need.
  • Introducing an accountable case management model to establish clear agency accountability for those seeking services and supports.
  • Increasing the number of mobile crisis response teams to provide around-the-clock response.
  • Providing free space in unused City-owned buildings for non-profits who provide addiction treatment and want to expand their services. In return for this space, earmarking a set number of spaces for emergency referrals from City agencies, such as police and paramedic services, the Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto Public Health, and Streets to Homes.
  • Calling on the province to waive tuition for the next three years for students pursuing a certificate at a Toronto college as a mental health, addiction, or supportive housing worker, and for those pursuing certification in supportive housing management.
  • Hiring additional public health nurses.
  • Negotiating with builders of new rental buildings to include supportive units in their projects, which would be provided to non-profits to operate their own programs.

“We need to provide a better level of dignity for people experiencing mental illness and homelessness and allowing encampments to take over our parks is a miserable failure at every level.”