Toronto to hire private security to prevent homeless camps in parks

Homeless camps started popping up in Toronto in March 2020 as hundreds of shelters fled for fear of contracting COVID-19

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TORONTO – The city of Toronto plans to hire private security guards to keep an eye on certain parks and prevent large homeless camps from popping up, as it did during the pandemic.

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City spokesman Brad Ross said proposals from private security contractors will be accepted until May 30 and the cost of the project will be determined when the contract is awarded.

In a statement, Ross said the contracted guards will contact city teams if a structure or tent is seen in a park.

He said those teams will quickly contact the camp residents and provide support services and safe accommodation.

“It is unsafe, illegal and unhealthy to camp in city parks,” he said.

“The city parks ordinance prohibits camping in parks, which was confirmed by the courts when the ordinance was unsuccessfully challenged in October 2020.”

The parks included in the new plan include Trinity Bellwoods Park, Lamport Stadium Park, Alexandra Park and Dufferin Grove – some of which broke out violent clashes between police and the homeless and their supporters when the city moved to set up camps last year. to evict.

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The city also said it plans to have two mobile security teams visit Moss Park and Barbara Hall Park.

Homeless camps started popping up in Toronto in March 2020 as hundreds of shelters fled for fear of contracting COVID-19.

At the end of 2020, there were more than 50 encampments in the city.

The city took action to close the encampment at Trinity Bellwoods in June last year, weeks after a botched clean-up operation at Lamport Stadium Park, where a large crowd showed up to support camp residents in a standoff with police.

Early in the morning on June 22, 2021, staff showed up at Trinity Bellwoods with more than 100 hired guards and fences were erected around two encampments.

The camp residents were told they had two hours to pack up and either take a hotel offer or leave. Some were in crisis that day.

Several clashes eventually broke out between the police and the homeless and their supporters, before riot police cleared the park by the end of the day.

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