Communal washrooms, 40 reported cases of COVID-19 at 11 city shelters, and no room for social distancing are some of the reasons Toronto’s homeless are pitching tents across the city. Another reason is that some social organizations are giving tents and sleeping bags to homeless residents encouraging social distancing by living in ravines.
Sanctuary, a church-based outreach program, is asking for tent donations and encouraging homeless residents to sleep on the church’s property instead of entering an overcrowded shelter space. The organization has just added portable toilets to the property, making sheltering at the Sanctuary space a bit easier for the homeless.
Al Honen, the first person pictured in this thread died of non-CoVID19 related causes yesterday evening and will be added to the Toronto Homeless Memorial today. Sanctuary also mourns the loss of Samson Kahgee and Mike Hudon in the last few days. https://t.co/tBRA5W4T0T
— Sanctuary Toronto (@SanctuaryTO) April 14, 2020
More than 50 tents throughout the city have been spotted with many taking up space in Rosedale Valley abutting one of the city’s toniest neighbourhoods Rosedale. Those experiencing homelessness and living in these ravines have been cleared out by the city in the recent past. But authorities are not clearing encampments from city streets during the pandemic although they are removing any potentially dangerous or harmful items.
— Ryerson Journalism (@RSJnow) January 9, 2020
Add to this mix recently released inmates from Ontario’s correctional facilities, and the number of homeless residents needing help is beyond the capabilities of the city’s social services. Many former inmates have flocked to Toronto’s streets without an exit plan due to closed social services departments.
Toronto has been slow to protect one of the city’s most vulnerable populations during the pandemic, but the city notes that the process of relocating homeless residents is tedious.
Nearly 100 tents have gone up almost overnight across the city with more popping up daily. The city plans to create 2,000 spaces for those who are homeless in hotels and community centres and has recently set up testing centres for the homeless.
To date, the city has successfully moved 1,000 people experiencing homelessness to temporary shelters.