The City of Toronto’s current response to homeless encampments is not only inadequate but is also causing further harm to the unhoused people who are most affected, a new report says.
The report by the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, looks at the supports available to people living in encampments last year, how some of those services were helpful and also ways they could be improved.
“The biggest thing people needed and wanted was permanent housing and that was the thing they did not get,” said Zoe Dodd, a community scholar with the centre.
The report, released Friday, follows the controversial eviction of homeless encampments from three Toronto parks in the summer of 2021. Many unhoused people chose to live in those encampments rather than risk contracting COVID-19 in the city’s shelters. According to the 83-page report, 127 surveys were conducted, along with 23 interviews with current or former encampment residents across Toronto. Researchers also interviewed 16 outreach workers and volunteers from a variety of organizations and groups.
“I think the stark thing is that people felt pretty abandoned in terms of the help they needed, but then there were neighbours and people who stepped up,” Dodd said.
The report says the study demonstrates the community-based outreach supports provided to encampment residents during the COVID-19 pandemic were highly beneficial for their survival and well-being, and that residents had a great appreciation for the social relationships that developed with outreach volunteers and workers.