At least nine people were arrested Tuesday as city staff and police forcibly evicted unhoused people from an encampment in Alexandra Park.
The city initially estimated that there were between 28 and 35 people living in roughly 60 temporary structures in the park, located near the corner of Bathurst and Dundas streets downtown. In an update later this morning, the city said a total of 26 people were in the encampment when they arrived.
City officials issued trespass notices to those living in four large encampments on June 12, warning them they could be removed and fined up to $10,000 if convicted.
The move to clear Alexandra Park comes about a month after people experiencing homelessness were forced to leave a similar encampment in Trinity Bellwoods Park, leading to a lengthy standoff between police and community members opposed to the enforcement of the trespass notices.
A temporary fence erected in the early morning hours today kept media and bystanders at a considerable distance from the area being cleared.
In a series of tweets, Toronto police said nine people had been arrested at the park, though they provided no further information about potential charges. They said they would provide an update at the end of the day.
Media at the scene also reported that a photographer for The Canadian Press was briefly detained. Toronto police later said that the journalist was in fact detained by the city’s own security guards “after refusing multiple requests to leave a park that was closed to the public” and that no charges were laid.
The city said in a news release that all those living in Alexandra Park will be allowed to pack two bags worth of belongings to take with them, while any other personal items left at the site will be stored for 30 days.
They will also be offered an indoor space at a hotel or shelter with meals, showers and laundry facilities, as well as be given access to mental health supports, harm reduction services and a housing worker, according to the city.
The park, as well as its outdoor pool and community garden, will be closed today, the release added.
Brad Ross, spokesperson for the City of Toronto, said that officials had to cancel all scheduled day camp activities at the park this summer due to the encampment. Similarly, staff at the Scadding Court Community Centre, situated at the north end of the park, have expressed concerns about the safety of residents who use the facility, he said.
In its update this morning, the city said that seven of the people in the park had decided to take an offer of indoor accommodation and 19 people “left on their own.”
Domenico Saxida, a resident in the encampment, said that the city’s decision to clear the park with police and security was “completely unnecessary.”
He said many residents had already begun to leave, with some opting to move to city-run hotels and shelters. Others had managed to find more permanent housing, which Saxida called a “miracle.”
Saxida said he doesn’t know where he will go next and that he is worried for others who were forced from the encampment this morning.
“There are a few women in this park. I would like to know, where are they going to go? What are they going to do? The shelters are overloaded, the hotels are all overloaded. They’re unsafe,” he said.