No Private Security In Public Parks

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Dear Mayor Tory and Members of Council,

We are writing to denounce the City’s decision to source a private security firm to “patrol and monitor ” public parks with expanded responsibility including “physically removing” and legally arresting people. While the City spends millions of dollars to fund the policing of people who are homeless, major funding cuts to outreach drop ins and meal services have been announced and shelter hotel closures are in progress. The act of enhancing enforcement while cutting services is both cruel and ineffective. Policing people who stay in parks is a violent intervention that criminalizes homelessness, increases stigma and leads to trauma, stress and poor health. For these reasons forced displacement has been condemned by the Centers for Disease Control and United Nations. The City must end policies that perpetuate physical and structural violence towards people who are poor and immediately devote adequate resources to ending homelessness in our City.

People are sleeping outside and in encampments because they have nowhere else to go. There is a massive shortage of shelter and housing. According to City of Toronto statistics an average of 113 people searching for a shelter bed are turned away each night because no beds are available. Based on City data at least 2000 more shelter beds are required to meet the need. Closing shelter hotels and meal and drop-in programming will worsen this situation.

For many people existing shelters are not safe. This past January fifty sites- over half of all shelters- had an active COVID 19 outbreak. People must choose between sleeping outside or risking exposure to an infectious disease by staying in a crowded congregate shelter. In 2021 an average of six people per month died in Toronto shetlers from an opioid overdose. Most shelters have inadequate harm reduction measures and are not safe for people who use drugs.

People who are homeless frequently face violence and harassment from police and security services. They are kicked out of stores, parks and alleyways often based on appearance alone. Increasing policing within parks will only cause more trauma and hardship-  when shelter is not available people have no choice but to be outside. Forced displacement simply pushes people into other encampments or hidden places like ravines leading to isolation, poor health outcomes, and death.

The housing and shelter crisis was created by negligence and poor policy. The City is now brutalizing those impacted by bad housing policy by violently displacing those who have no option but to stay in an encampment. The City must end this harmful and futile practice and devote all resources to creating safe housing and shelter. Addressing the housing and shelter crisis is ultimately the only way to reduce the amount of people who must stay outside.

We call on the City of Toronto to:

1.  Immediately stop the eviction of encampment residents and the policing of public spaces. Devote the resources spent on private security to keeping drop-in and meal programs open.

2.  End the planned closure of shelter hotels. Closing shelters will force more people to spend the winter outside.

3.  Immediately add an additional 2,000 non-congregate spaces to the
shelter system to ensure everyone can access shelter.

4. Collaborate with Provincial and Federal governments to immediately build at least 10,000 rent geared to income units in Toronto and ensure the Rapid Housing Initiative is adequately funded on an ongoing basis.

5. Purchase and/or expropriate property to build social and supportive housing.

6. Immediately collaborate with people who use drugs to implement harm reduction measures into shelters. This may include creating supervised consumption sites, safety checks by request and permitting guests.


Danielle Koyama, Frontline Worker
Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse
Greg Cook, Outreach Worker
Jessica Hales, Nurse Practitioner
Shelter and Housing Justice Network Steering Committee


For more information contact:

Shelter and Housing Justice Network






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August – September 2022 Update


Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN)

August – September 2022 Update

Hello folks!

Update from SHJN:

Call to Action for Housing!

Every day the housing crisis across Canada escalates. In Iqaluit elders and youth are forced to sleep outside because there is nowhere else to go. In Kingston, as people struggle with the increased cost of living, more people are losing their housing and shelters are at capacity. In Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal, and in places across the country, people are forced to live in tents, bus shelters, ravines, because there is no where else to go.

In Toronto a state of emergency ensues. More and more people are priced out and pushed out of rental stock and shelters are at capacity. On average 113 people a day are denied access to basic shelter because no beds are available. Despite the dangerous shortage of shelter space the City is planning to close shelter hotels and continues to attack and displace encampment residents.

As winter approaches and temperatures drop the need for safe shelter is even more critical. Lives will be lost as a result of inadequate government action – we must Fight Back! November 22 is National Housing Day. The Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN) is calling for a mass rally to send a loud message to all levels of government—leaving people to suffer and die from lack of shelter and housing can not be allowed to continue. They must build Social Housing Now!

We would like to invite all members of SHJN and concerned parties to help organize and build a November 22 National Housing Day action. To participate join our general members meetings on:

· Wednesday, September 21, 2022 @ 7:00-8:30pm

· Tuesday, October 18, 2022 @ 7:00-8:30pm

Link to join meetings: click here

For more information please email

SHJN — June 2022 Update: The Fight Continues

Hello there!

Update from SHJN:

The SHJN steering committee is sending out this communication to provide an update on the plans for the network in the months ahead. Since launching SHJN in December 2018, the network has benefitted from monthly general meetings where participants can share important updates on issues related to the shelter and housing crisis in Toronto, and can collaborate with other members of SHJN to plan actions and initiatives.

After running these monthly meetings for over 3 years—including two years of virtual meetings since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—we have made the decision to pause our general meetings, with a plan to restart them as early as September 2022. We would like to use the next 3 months to reorganize the network, which will include working to expand the network of SHJN to include more participants, and increasing the network’s capacity to advocate for justice and accountability around issues of housing and homelessness. Some issues that we will continue to focus on as we move forward are:

· Shelter and encampment conditions

· Inadequate housing

· COVID-19 protection measures

We look forward to resuming our monthly meetings in the fall, and until this time SHJN will continue to be active and available. More information about how to stay involved and up-to-date with SHJN is included below.

Read the complete newsletter here.

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National Housing Strategy – Left Behind: social housing

Please see information about Left Behind: social housing by FRAPRU

Nearly 5 years ago, The National Housing Strategy was adopted by the federal government. First announced with great fanfare on 22 November 2017, Canadian Housing Day. Is the Strategy able to respond to the current housing crises: serious deterioration of the homelessness situation; scarcity of rental housing; sky-high rent; and the rise of phenomena such as ‘renovictions’, evictions and speculation? Will it really be able to “further the realization of the right to adequate housing” as the law adopted in 2019 requires?

We are pleased to share our new leaflet, updated after the last budget, in English & in French on that important question.

Please, don’t hesitate to share widely this document LefleatNHS

You can also share it from FRAPRU website.

In English

In French

Where there’s smoke, there’s no fire

By A.J. Whiters and Amie Tsang—originally posted in briarpatch

At the end of the third wave of COVID-19, the City of Toronto forcibly evicted about 30 unhoused people from Trinity Bellwoods Park. Videos from that day show police using pepper spray on supporters who showed up to protect their unhoused neighbours. New documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests show that in order to legitimize the violent evictions, City staff worked to control the media narrative around encampments, pre-determining media exclusion zones and inflating fire safety concerns in press releases.

Early in the morning on June 22, 2021, people living in and around Trinity Bellwoods Park noticed a temporary fence being erected around large areas of the park. The public would later find out that this fencing cost $139,109, while the private security and police protecting it added another $305,711. The fence was the physical enforcement of an exclusion zone, an area where police block public access – in this case, separating encampment residents from their supporters. And while members of the media are sometimes allowed inside exclusion zones (albeit with a police escort) to document what’s happening, at least five journalists say they were prevented from entering the exclusion zone that day.

Willms suspects his arrest was intended to “scare other journalists from crossing that fence.”

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