A makeshift homeless camp that was set up under the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto has been torn down by city officials, according to reports by The Toronto Star. The homeless encampment was removed from its site on Lake Shore Blvd. West near Lower Simcoe by city workers this morning. Staff were observed sorting through the belongings of the homeless camp's residents, including personal items such as bikes, blankets, plastic containers, mats, and small bags.
As a loader and a city truck extracted and disposed items from the camp, traffic was obstructed on the surrounding roadways.
Some of the camp's inhabitants quickly packed up their belongings and fled the scene before city workers could approach them. Dexter Wolfgang was one of these people.
"What they’re doing is stupid. They should give us housing," Wolfgang told The Toronto Star.
The stretch of land below the Gardiner Expressway between Bathurst St. and Lower Simcoe St. has been known to serve as a temporary home for homeless individuals who are struggling to stay warm through Toronto's bitter winter months.
Back in January, city officials had considered a plan to evict the camp's residents. According to city staff, the camp's inhabitants could simply "find space in city shelters".
HAPPENING NOW: City staff moved this morning to remove a makeshift homeless camp set up under the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto. This is at Lake Shore Blvd. W. near Lower Simcoe St. https://t.co/Gm0FK9Z7b4 pic.twitter.com/3komVvYxpg— TorontoStar (@TorontoStar) March 13, 2019
The city handed out notices informing those living in the camp that they had 14 days to leave, or else they would face "further enforcement". The people who had already set up their tents in the camp were reportedly terrified that evictions would begin sweeping through the area.
According to city staff, though, the notices were distributed to merely inform people that they were violating city rules, threatening to remove their possessions if they did not comply. Later that month, the city abandoned the plan.
Toronto's homeless shelters have been nearly at full capacity over the last several months, according to the camp's residents. They told The Toronto Star's breaking news reporter that they resorted to settling in the makeshift camps because they simply had nowhere else to seek shelter.
So we destroy this homeless community and what little they possess. Was their a plan in place to relocate them and help them get back on their feet? @JohnTory and Toronto City Council should be ashamed of themselves. These people deserved dignity and respect. #TOpoli #cdnpoli https://t.co/IUpXH57vSa— A Seip🐓☘️ (@aseip1) March 13, 2019
Wow. Nice city you live in.— BlackBerryBert BBB (@Hamilto68494620) March 13, 2019
HAPPENING NOW: City staff moved this morning to remove a makeshift homeless camp set up under the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto. This is at Lake Shore Blvd. W. near Lower Simcoe St. https://t.co/NfuhzDOz7P pic.twitter.com/XnP63lAJl9
Its hard to be believe this continues to happen in Toronto. For a city as wealthy and burgeoning as us, our homelessness rates are unacceptable, and the actions we imposed on the homeless even worse. https://t.co/D6hGQ67qnJ— Massoud Abbasi (@OmegaGroupMA) March 13, 2019
One of the camp's residents, Richard Smith, explained to The Toronto Star, "It’s a Catch-22." Smith has lived under the Gardiner Expressway on and off for approximately the last two years. Smith and his dog, Pixie, used to sleep in a green and grey tent draped in sleeping bags within the camp.
Smith explained in a previous report by The Toronto Star, "We check in on each other, that's kind of the reason to be here." Around Smith's tent were propane tanks he used to cook, in addition to empty water bottles, a frying pan, pot, and dishtowel that sat next to a large cooler. Since the camp's destruction this morning, those possessions are now gone.