The removal of a homeless man who has been a fixture outside a Tim Hortons near Yonge-Dundas Square has lead to pushback from the community.
Last week, the Downtown Yonge BIA installed large planter boxes outside the Tim Hortons on Victoria Street just north of Dundas Street. The spot is where a homeless man named Jason (Jay) has been camping out for nearly a decade. The BIA says the planters were installed specifically to encourage him to move into a more permanent home.
Mark Garner, the executive director of the Downtown Yonge BIA, says several people from the Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral program have been working with Jay to get him the help he needs.
However, signs and graffiti that have appeared outside the Tim Hortons over the past week seem to suggest the BIA’s involvement was unwelcome.
On Monday, signs were seen taped to the pillars and the public garbage bin outside the storefront saying “Somebody lived here,” “Between these pillars,” “And we just threw him away.” It’s unclear who is responsible for the signs, but posts on social media suggest Ryerson students put them up as a show of support for Jay.
On Wednesday, bright orange graffiti was sprayed across the planters, with some of them reading “***k your shrubs“. In addition the words “Homeless not hopeless” were written in large letters across the roadway. A clean up truck was brought in to remove it that afternoon.
The pushback, while well intentioned, may be misguided as some people have reportedly approached Jay and told him he doesn’t need to leave. The contrary messaging could unravel months of work by outreach workers from the city who have recognized that Jay’s health and overall situation has deteriorated and he is in urgent need of help.
Meanwhile, one of the two spaces available for Jay in a special assistance home has now been filled. Outreach workers have approximately a week left to convince him to take them up on the offer.
Councillor Krystan Wong Tam empathizes with those who feel Jay is being forced to leave, but stresses that the BIA is truly trying to help and provide support.
“This BIA has recognized that part of their responsibility here is to be the convener or the steward of the area…they don’t run or shy from that responsibility,” she said. “They work really hard to build relationships with people who are vulnerable and street involved. They’ve created all sorts of resource tools to match the service with the individual and they’ve gone above and beyond most BIAs”
Garner says the planters will be removed once Jay is settled into the available housing unit.