City crews demolish homeless encampment under Gardiner Expressway

City crews cleared out a homeless encampment on Wednesday under the Gardiner Expressway downtown following a fire in a tent in the area on the weekend.

Clearing of camp follows fire in tent, eviction notice from city sent to dwellers in January

City staff work to clear a homeless encampment under the Gardiner Expressway on Wednesday morning. (Paul Smith/CBC)

City crews cleared out a homeless encampment on Wednesday under the Gardiner Expressway downtown following a fire in a tent in the area on the weekend.

"We cleared that camp today because our chief concern was that another fire could result in injury or death," says Brad Ross, the city of Toronto's chief communications officer.

The encampment was in the area of Lake Shore Boulevard West and Lower Simcoe Street. Crews, along with heavy equipment, went in on Wednesday morning. 

Ross said city staff had served people living in the encampment with eviction notices in January that said they had 14 days to leave.

Heavy equipment removes debris from the encampment while city staff watch. (Paul Smith/CBC)

Erecting tents on city property is not permitted and there was a lot of debris scattered around the area, he said. As well, there had been open fires.

The dwellers were evicted primarily to maintain public safety, he added.

"At some point, we do need to ensure that the safety of those individuals and the safety of the public generally is maintained. We needed to clean it up. It's about safety first."

City staff waited to remove tents from the camp until the weather had begun to improve, he said. "We did wait until the weather started to warm up a bit."

He said the city did not know how many people were living there.

Brad Ross, the city of Toronto's chief communications officer, said there was a lot of debris in the encampment under the Gardiner Expressway. (Paul Smith/CBC)

Ross said staff from the city's Streets to Home program, part of its shelter, support and housing administration division, have been working with people who lived there to help them find shelter.

If they do not want shelter, staff will help them obtain identification, and if possible, employment, he said.

Piles of bikes, tarps, blankets, mattresses, boxes and garbage could be seen as crews worked to clear the area on Wednesday.

Ross said staff ensured that everyone had left their tents before heavy equipment came in to clear the area.

Eviction notices have been sent to people living in other encampments in Toronto, Ross said.

A makeshift home is pictured here before the city pulled it down. (Paul Smith/CBC)

Other encampments that have received notices from the city include:

  • west side of Yonge Street and south of Dundas Street West.
  • Queen Street East and Victoria Street.
  • Under the Lower Simcoe Street bridge.
  • west side of Bay Street and south of King Street West.
  • Roncevalles Avenue, Queen Street West and King Street West
  • Gardiner Expressway at Spadina Avenue.

Ross said the majority have already been cleared by city crews.

Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said the fire did not cause any injuries and was deemed to be not criminal in nature.

"It occurred, we may have attended, but it didn't require a police report," she added.

With files from Nathan Crocker