The City of Toronto says orders have been issued asking people in eight areas under the Gardiner Expressway to leave within two weeks, citing safety concerns.
City spokesperson Brad Ross told Global News that transportation services staff began proactively issuing 14-day eviction notices on Thursday for those who are living in areas that are blocking right-of-ways, on sidewalks or near roadways.
He also said staff have prioritized areas where there have been reports of open flames and significant amounts of items and debris.
“The priority is for people to get housed, it’s for people to get the services they need, and that’s what we’ll continue to work toward,” Ross said.
He said joining transportation officials are shelter support and housing staff, specifically, personnel from the streets-to-homes program. Ross said in addition to offering referrals to shelters, they providing information on health and addiction services.
Terence Campos, a 39-year-old man who lives in a tent near an off-ramp of the Gardiner Expressway by Spadina Avenue, said he has lived in the area for roughly four or five years and has been homeless since he was in his teens. He said he received a notice from city staff.
“There’s a good family down here. We always watch each other,” Campos said.
“Some people are uncomfortable with it … everybody deserves a place.”
He said this type of notice isn’t new for him or those he knows. Campos said many will pack up, leave, and will likely return at some point. He said if he has to go to a shelter or other short-term accommodations, he will have to throw out most of his belongings or give those to others who are homeless.
But Campos said the area where he is currently living, which is next to an off-ramp leading to Lake Shore Boulevard West, is better for him than being in a shelter.
“It’s more peaceful. Being in certain hostels with drug activities and all this stuff is not for me. Being around it, because I’ve been around it… it’s hard to come off of it,” he said.
“I’ve been in a complicated world and I’m trying to get away from it.”
Meanwhile, Ross acknowledged shelters aren’t the sole answer.
“The shelter is not a permanent solution,” he said, adding municipalities across the country are facing challenges with providing long-term and affordable housing.
Ross said once the 14-day orders expire, staff will take further action on a case-by-case basis. This could mean city staff moving in quickly after the orders expire to remove items left at the areas cited.