Toronto’s encampments and homeless crisis: a view from the ground

What is it like to live on the street? What does it mean to find refuge by sleeping on a park bench or building a tent in a city park? These are questions many in Toronto have had to ask themselves every night.

Hundreds of encampments have popped up in Toronto’s city parks since the start of the pandemic hit. They are striking symbols of major problems in the city: unaffordable housing, overcrowded shelters that carry health risks, a shortage of mental health support and a homelessness crisis that has left thousands out in the cold.

Volunteer groups like the Toronto Encampment Support Network visit encampment residents to provide basic needs like water, food and fire safety equipment. In the last month, Toronto carpenter Khaleel Seivwright drew both widespread praise and controversy for building insulated tiny shelters for the homeless, which resulted in legal action from the City of Toronto. But community and homeless advocates say these are only temporary answers to long-standing needs.

Today on “This Matters,” we hear first-hand stories from Dom, an encampment resident who lives in Alexandra Park, who shares his experience surviving on the street. Lorraine Lam, an outreach worker from Sanctuary Toronto, joins part two of the episode to talk about what the city needs to do to help the most vulnerable.

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