WARMINGTON: Some homeless prefer camping in city parks over sleeping in a luxury hotel suite

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Don’t look now but campers and tents have taken over another city park.

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This time it’s Dufferin Grove Park’s turn.

Seems some people are uncomfortable staying in an all-expenses-paid, four-star hotel and they prefer the real estate experience across from Dufferin Mall.

“It’s not safe in a hotel,” a squatter known as Dreddz explained Friday. “I am never going to a hotel.”

The problem is he can’t stay in this park or any others for the next year after receiving what he calls both an eviction and trespass notice from the City of Toronto.

“I feel like I am being singled out,” he said. “They are doing it to myself and another guy because we are leaders.”

(L) Dreaddz, who was banished from Dufferin Grove Park and issued a notice from the City of Toronto not to appear in the park for a year, and Sima Atri, a social justice lawyer and co-director of the Community Justice Collective, are seen here in Dufferin Grove Park on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
(L) Dreaddz, who was banished from Dufferin Grove Park and issued a notice from the City of Toronto not to appear in the park for a year, and Sima Atri, a social justice lawyer and co-director of the Community Justice Collective, are seen here in Dufferin Grove Park on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. Photo by Jack Boland /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

The city makes no effort to apologize for this.

“As a result of serious safety concerns, two individuals — one from Randy Padmore Park, one from Dufferin Grove Park– were served letters of trespass notice for engaging in threatening and disruptive behaviour, as well as harassment of city staff and partner agency employees,” Toronto spokespersons Brad Ross and Anthony Toderian said in a statement sent to me and Sun photographer Jack Boland.

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So this is definitely an out-of-the-box situation where the city and people in the park are at loggerheads.

Dreddz — a well-spoken individual who has been spotted demonstrating during encampment evictions at Trinity Bellwoods, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium — talks of poverty, lack of city investment and a society with no compassion.

He’s a likeable person who needs society’s help but his perspective on what is being done and not done does not lineup with reality.

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The city has invested millions of dollars into helping the homeless, which includes getting them off the street and into temporary hotel shelters while they try to find them more permanent abodes. There are dozens of services offered to assist and Toronto puts forward endless care for the needy through volunteering and fundraising.

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Even in these camping areas where inhabitants are supposedly roughing it, six pizzas were delivered as well as a crate of water and even supplies from a rented moving truck, including couches, chairs and new mattresses for a more comfortable night’s sleep. There are some 30 tents pitched there now.

Meanwhile, all the complaining amongst the occupants about how hard it is for people staying at The Novotel has not gained much sympathy from the working class who could only ever dream of staying in such a posh location. A simple “thank you” the City of Toronto and its taxpayers would probably go over better.

That said, the city is always in need of new thinking and should regularly sit down with people like Dreddz to start building trust.

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I met the perfect person that I think could facilitate this. She is very wise and offered not just complaints but practical, intelligent solutions. Her name is Sima Atri, a Harvard-trained lawyer for the Community Justice Collective who made the excellent point that the temporary hotel stay program does not work for some not used to structure.

She feels a better method may be to get people directly from a park into permanent housing.

Even Dreddz agreed, albeit reluctantly, with this lawyer.

I felt there was some movement there and would encourage them to all talk instead of fight. It’s better to come up with a plan and give it a shot rather than look for confrontation. The City of Toronto is not opposed to new ideas and I think Atri has the right understanding of what would work and what would not.

No matter how it goes, it can’t be forgotten that those city parks and playgrounds are for families and not hardcore drug use, vagrancy and camping.

But you would not know that by walking through a new, unofficial, campground known as Dufferin Grove Park these days.

jwarmington@postmedia.com

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