TORONTO — The City of Toronto is planning to hire private security guards to monitor certain parks and prevent large homeless encampments from cropping up as they did earlier in the pandemic.
City spokesman Brad Ross said proposals from private security contractors will be accepted until May 30 and the cost of the project will be determined when the contract is awarded.
In a statement, Ross said the contracted security guards will contact city teams when a structure or tent is seen in a park.
He said those teams will quickly contact the encampment occupants and offer support services and safe accommodation.
"It is unsafe, illegal and unhealthy to camp in city parks," he said.
"The city’s parks bylaw prohibits camping in parks, which was upheld by the Courts when the bylaw was unsuccessfully challenged in October 2020."
The parks included in the new plan are Trinity Bellwoods Park, Lamport Stadium Park, Alexandra Park and Dufferin Grove – some of which saw violent clashes break out between police and the homeless and their supporters when the city moved to clear encampments last year.
The city said it also plans to have two mobile security teams visit Moss Park and Barbara Hall Park.
Homeless encampments began popping up across Toronto in March 2020 as hundreds fled shelters for fear of contracting COVID-19.
By late 2020, there were more than 50 encampments in the city.
The city took action to end the encampment in Trinity Bellwoods in June of last year, weeks after a failed clearing operation at Lamport Stadium Park, where a large crowd showed up to support encampment residents in a standoff with police.
On June 22, 2021, staff showed up early in the morning at Trinity Bellwoods with more than 100 hired security guards and fences were erected around two encampment areas.
The encampment residents were told they had two hours to pack and either take an offer to a hotel or leave. Some were in crisis that day.
Several clashes eventually broke out between police and the homeless and their supporters, before the riot squad moved and cleared the park near the end of the day.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2022.
Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press