The Encampment Support Network (ESN) is an ad-hoc, volunteer-run network supporting people living in encampments in 6 locations throughout Toronto. This includes ESN Parkdale, ESN Trinity Bellwoods, ESN Scadding Court, ESN Moss Park, ESN LNP and ESN Cherry Beach.
Outreach volunteers from our network visit encampments daily to deliver basic supplies such as water and tents, ice, sleeping bags, fire safety equipment, and snacks, which the city has consistently refused to provide. We believe all people deserve care, support, and access to water, food, fire safety and sanitation.
We advocate for better conditions in encampments, report on city conditions and activity in encampments, and advocate for long term permanent housing for people in their communities of choice. ESN also collects and compiles feedback from residents to support our advocacy efforts and continues to pressure the city to develop real solutions to the housing crisis. The only way to provide effective support and find solutions is by listening to and centring the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
It’s estimated that 1500 people sleep outside in Toronto as the result of a housing crisis that saw 102,049 households waitlisted for social housing in 2019 and over 9000 people homeless.
which were largely invisible because they were pushed out of sight by by-law enforcement and criminalized by police ticketing. With a housing list 12 years long, Toronto has no long-term strategy for housing.
as the city has begun to open up for business. City officials are evicting people from encampments and moving them into different temporary living situations. In effect the temporary housing solutions are part of a strategy to invisibilise homelessness, rather then provide permanent housing.
There are many reasons. Here are a few:
There is no affordable housing in Toronto.
There are most often no shelter beds available.
Shelters force people to live in densely packed conditions with shared washrooms, making it impossible to safely physically distance.
Shelters often impose social controls around lifestyle, like curfews and abstinence-based policies. This makes it hard for people to work and to live as they choose.
People have negative experiences in certain shelters and have had their belongings stolen and feel unsafe.
The physical conditions of some shelters remind people of traumatizing institutions, like prison or residential schools.
As of June 5 there were 14 current COVID-19 outbreaks and 528 confirmed cases in shelters. 4 People have died. In the encampments that have been tested for COVID-19, there were zero cases.
Tell John Tory and the City to provide Rent Geared to Income (RGI) housing options for people in encampments that have the social supports they need. Don’t fall for the short-term strategy. Take action, write to the municipal government.
to choose their own living situations and let them stay in encampments if they want. The city should repeal by-laws that criminalize people camping in public space.
and respectfully offer them material support to fulfill basic needs, like water, food, tents, and so on. We have a running list of needs and tips and recommendations of how to safely donate.
where we report on how we spend money, and notable things happening in encampments. We do consider it our responsibility to voice what we see is happening on the ground, because so far no one from the City is asking residents what their experience is. You can register for our newsletter and access past newsletters below.
to do our work. While we were hoping that the government would prioritize housing the 1500 people living in encampments across the city, as winter approaches we recognize that we will likely need to continue our work to sustain people during the cold months. Your support will allow us to continue delivering water, gatorade, tents, sleeping bags, socks, underwear, snacks and other essentials.