TORONTO – The city of Toronto must treat people living in homeless encampments with dignity and respect, Ombudsman Kwame Addo said Thursday.
Addo is conducting an investigation into the city’s clearing of encampments in Toronto last year and has released an interim report with recommendations for the city.
The city should develop a detailed plan outlining how and when it will update its encampment response protocol, hold consultations with the public to inform that update and clearly outline the role and mandate of its encampment office, he said.
Addo said the city should implement the recommendations immediately to improve the fairness of its response to encampments.
“Clearing encampments is extremely disruptive and in some cases traumatizing to the people living in them,” said Addo.
“The co-ordination of the city’s response is foundational. If it is not fair, nothing that follows can be.”
The city said the ombudsman’s report will be presented at a meeting of city council this month, and that it accepts the recommendations.
“City staff will implement the recommendations and provide the ombudsman with an update in the fourth quarter of 2022, and quarterly thereafter,” the city said in a statement.
Toronto police and city staff cleared four homeless encampments in three Toronto parks
last summer, but clashed with residents and their supporters while doing so.
According to the city’s data, the number of homeless encampments in Toronto went down from about 418 encampments in June 2021, to about 121 encampments as of July 13, 2022.
The ombudsman’s team reviewed about 11,000 documents from the city and spoke with 43 homeless people before issuing the recommendations.
“The recommendations in this interim report will improve the fairness and accountability of the city’s actions,” said Addo.
“There is more work to do, though. We will release our final report with further recommendations at the earliest opportunity.”