Enforcement officers clear small downtown encampment

City of Toronto workers, along with enforcement officers, cleared a small encampment at a downtown park on Sunday.

After issuing trespass notices last weekend, the city says it moved in on 10 encampments at Clarence Square located near Spadina Avenue and Front Street.

Eight unoccupied tents were removed while one tent and one wooden structure were allowed to remain for the time being. Of the four individuals who were onsite, one has elected to remain while three others agreed to find other housing.

Toronto police were on hand but did not assist in Sunday’s operation.

“Living in an encampment in a City park is unhealthy and illegal and trespass notices were posted and presented to occupants of Clarence Square the morning of Saturday, June 4th providing 72 hours advanced notice of enforcement,” the City said in a statement. “As the owner of its parks, the City has the right to refuse permission to install structures on its land.”

City bylaws prohibit anyone from setting up a tent or structure, camping or occupying a park for non-recreational purposes.

Prior to this weekend’s action, the city said its Streets to Homes outreach group had engaged the encampment at Clarence Square 152 times since the beginning of the year, referred 17 people to “indoor accommodation.”

“I’ve made the point many times that encampments are unsafe, they’re unhealthy and they’re illegal,” said Mayor John Tory. “We’ve made strenuous efforts in all these different locations to find indoor housing for the people affected who are experiencing homelessness, and those efforts will continue.”

RELATED: Homeless, supporters charged in Toronto encampment clearings vow to fight charges

Last July, city officials came under heavy criticism after an attempt to evict people from a homeless encampment at Toronto’s Lamport Stadium Park led to violent clashes with police. A total of 26 people were arrested and 30 structures were removed from that encampment.

Last month, city council approved hiring private security guards to patrol major parks in the hopes of preventing large encampments from being set up in parks across the city. Encampments popped up more frequently during the pandemic as more shelter-users took to the streets, citing safety concerns and COVID-19 outbreaks in shelters.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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