LEVY: Toronto street encampments reminiscent of South Los Angeles

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Just south of Lake Shore Blvd. E., close to the city’s Commissioner’s St. transfer station and Mayfair Lakeshore tennis club, sits a different kind of Toronto encampment — one eerily similar to that found in South Los Angeles.

A cluster of RVs — some rather dilapidated — an old chartered bus and several old El Cheapo moving trucks have been parked on Bouchette St. and Logan Ave. and are now serving as homes.

There has to be at least 30 of them.

I don’t know how long they’ve been there but they were brought to my attention by a Toronto resident who stumbled upon the encampments while dropping off waste to the transfer station this week.

When I went down there Wednesday, I was confronted by a man in black undershorts — carrying a can of beer and living in one of the old RVs — who screamed obscenities at me about women journalists and my interest in doing a story.

Other RVs were clearly occupied considering there were rugs drying out front, bags of garbage and other paraphernalia around them.


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Dilapidated campers and RVs make streets in the city's Port Lands look like South Los Angeles.
Dilapidated campers and RVs make streets in the city’s Port Lands look like South Los Angeles. Photo by Sue-Ann Levy /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Outside two old RVs pushed together, there was a collection of bikes, a motorcycle, a brand new lawn mower and various other tools and tarps.

City workers were busy cutting grass in a park next to some of the parked vehicles and people drove by as if this was perfectly normal — like it has become in South L.A.

It was rather interesting to find this encampment — in addition to the increasing occupation by tent dwellers of major downtown parks — considering a June 1 report from the city manager to council indicated that the city’s shelter division has a 2021 budget of $281 million just for the COVID-19 response.

That includes, according to the report, additional temporary spaces in existing hotel shelters and other locations.

The report says $110.6 million has been spent to the end of April.


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That doesn’t include, according to the report, $221 million in federal funding to create 540 new permanent affordable homes plus a pile of other projects (modular housing is one at $47.5 million) being shepherded through the city’s Housing Secretariat run by Abi Bond.

Although all of these millions of dollars have been spent, the report itself indicates, there has been a “noticeable increase” in the number and size of encampments in Toronto since the start of the pandemic.

However, it is interesting to note that according to an Encampment Engagement survey conducted in March (for which participants received $10 cash), 82% of those surveyed said they did not lose their housing because of COVID-19 but due to other factors, including the lack of affordability.


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What this appears to suggest — and given the rise in encampment numbers as I noticed at Alexandra Park — is that it’s akin to a revolving door with tents and campers quickly replacing every person who goes inside.

Dilapidated campers and RVs make streets in the city's Port Lands look like South Los Angeles.
Dilapidated campers and RVs make streets in the city’s Port Lands look like South Los Angeles. Photo by Sue-Ann Levy /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

City spokesman Kris Scheuer says the city is aware of the encampment with vehicles, trailers, trucks and campers — and is engaging with the people there to bring them inside.

She said one person has moved into a hotel program and left the encampment with their vehicles.

Christopher Brown, who stumbled upon the RV encampments, called it a “heartbreaking new low for Toronto.”

He feels people aren’t there because of choice or free will but are struggling to survive.

“It’s an indictment of our progressive politicians and the army of well-fed homeless industry consultants they’ve spawned,” he said, noting the encampment shines a “burning light” on our failed policies.

“The most vulnerable of our society are paying a horrible price, one that’s perhaps irreversible,” he said. “One glance at the growing legion of walking dead in downtown, men and women permanently savaged by illegal drugs, booze and mental illnesses and it’s clear this can only get worse.”



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