Across parks in downtown Toronto notices were posted threatening to criminalize individuals who sought safety, community, and shelter in the encampments in Toronto Parks. These threats went in direct contrast to public health recommendations to not displace individuals in encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the third wave upon us and significant shelter outbreaks. Furthermore, these threats represent attempts to make homelessness invisible, not strategies to meaningful support our fellow community members living in encampments.
Health Providers Against Poverty wrote an open letter denouncing the encampment evictions that was signed by 330 health providers and also hosted a demonstration at City Hall on Monday April 5th to call for a moratorium on encampment evictions.
We will continue to stand by our fellow community members in encampments and hope that our city will focus on efforts to support encampment residents not criminalize them.
As healthcare workers, we know there is an immediate need for safe housing, especially during the winter months of a pandemic. Unfortunately in Toronto, the current efforts to provide shelter for our most vulnerable have been inadequate. Shelter spaces are often unavailable or people do not feel safe or comfortable living in them. Ultimately, forcing people to stay outside in subzero temperatures without shelter.
Khaleel Seivwright has stepped up to provide insulated and fire safety approved outdoor Tiny Shelters filling a critical gap and providing safety for a group of people who so desperately need it. As healthcare providers, we demand that the legal proceedings against Mr. Seivwright are withdrawn and the clearing of Tiny Shelters is stopped. Of course, the end goal is housing for all, but until that is a real possibility we should support a harm reduction approach and individuals like Mr. Seivwright who are brave enough to develop creative solutions to this life-threatening housing crisis.
HPAP has signed on to the Choosing Real Safety letter. Lets build a safer community that does not rely on ineffective punitive measures (such as policing, jails, prisons and immigration detention centres) and instead focuses on investing in addressing the root causes of violence in our society and building strength in our communities.