At least two protesters were arrested as city crews began dismantling an encampment in the Liberty Village area on Wednesday.
The city is telling those living in tents and makeshift structures near Lamport Stadium, just off King Street West, they’ll have to move to city-identified housing instead of remaining in the west end park.
This eviction was met with protests, with dozens yelling “shame” as city workers, some dressed in hazardous material suits, broke down tents and loaded them into garbage trucks. At other points, demonstrators locked arms to make human chains around tents.
Encampments Support Network Toronto, an organization that has sprung up to help those living outside, tweeted that people at the site did not want to leave.
“This is forced displacement,” the organization tweeted.
The city has been clearing encampments in recent weeks, noting they violate city bylaws. A trespass notice was sent to those living at the site last week.
City spokesperson Brad Ross said outreach workers have visited Lamport 107 times since January to offer alternative spaces. At one point, he noted, a propane tank exploded at the site resulting in a serious fire.
“Living outside has a significant, negative impact on overall health and the well-being of people,” Ross said in an email.
“Encampments are not an indefinite solution to unsheltered homelessness and the health outcomes for people who stay outside are complex and serious.”
Ross said the options for those being displaced include shelters or hotel rooms.
“By coming inside … people are provided with a number of supports, including a housing worker, meals, laundry, showers, harm reduction and medical assistance,” he said.
It’s unclear how many people were living at the Lamport encampment or where they’ll go next — some suggested to a CBC videojournalist they’d prefer to remain outside.
Police, meanwhile, said in an email statement they sent officers to the scene as a “last resort” and warned if people refuse to leave they may be issued a trespassing ticket. It’s unclear what the two people arrested were charged with at this time.