Dear Mayor Tory and Members of City Council,
As rents in Toronto continue to rise and wages stagnate or disappear altogether, many of our neighbours are being deprived of the dignity and stability of a permanent home. Gallery TPW strongly opposes the City of Toronto’s harsh response to dismantling encampments. This only further destabilizes the lives of people who have been forced into an untenable situation due our heightened housing crisis. For many people, living in an encampment is the only option.
While the right to shelter is critical for ensuring the safety of all citizens, municipal shelters have proven to be very difficult—and often dangerous— places to live. Many have lived in shelters or other institutional settings before, and their frustration borne of these often-discriminatory experiences, only reinforces doubt and distrust. Quarters are tight and accommodations are poor. COVID-19 exacerbates the situation, as the congregate design of shelters is not conducive to social distancing.
Gallery TPW stands in solidarity with the encamped residents, Encampment Support Network and advocates for greater support for all unhoused residents, including sustained investments in social services and public housing by:
Repealing by-laws that make it illegal to “camp”
Ensuring that individuals who are unsheltered have access to basic hygiene supplies—including masks, face coverings, and hand sanitizer—and facilities, as well as outdoor survival gear and safety equipment
Providing increased crisis-intervention programs to help the unhoused
Ending the practice of cluster-site shelters by replacing them with purpose-built facilities that would keep people closer to their support networks and communities
Placing a moratorium on utility and rent payments
Offering rent arrears grants and free legal services for tenants facing evictions
Creating an affordable housing plan that involves moving individuals directly into subsidized housing and providing access to job and educational training
We must stop criminalizing actions that are necessary for many people. Housing is a basic human right and these laws make it impossible to live with dignity and respect. Everyone should feel welcome to utilize public space and to create community. Eradicating encampments is dehumanizing and only further serves to isolate communities who need support. This must stop immediately.
We look forward to hearing what concrete steps you will be taking to rectify this situation and how you will be addressing the above mentioned points directly.