The City of Toronto has asked to drop its plan to deter encampment by posting security guards in parks
Crisis workers and some councilors are calling on the City of Toronto to end its renewed search for security companies in public patrol parks, saying the move will result in brutal treatment of homeless people.
The city reissued a request for proposals from security firms last week after saying the first round of bidding did not result in an acceptable bid. The plan to station private guards in city parks has sparked criticism and concerns over the surveillance and potential arrest of people who are homeless and live in the spaces.
The city said the encampments are unsafe, unsanitary and illegal. He maintains that his 1,500 parks are public places for the use of all, that regulations prohibit “to encroach on a park or to take possession of it” and that he will apply these rules.
Com. Gord Perks, who represents Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park, is among the critics of the plan. The city should drop the request for proposals, he said, calling it a waste of money.
I don’t think a single penny is well spent.– Advice. Gord Perks, Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park
“I don’t think a single penny is well spent,” Perks said.
“If all you’re doing is spending money on people who are going to rush them and send them to jail, that’s not helping someone get off the streets.”
Encampments have sprung up in city parks and other public spaces in recent years as Toronto’s shelter and affordable housing crisis has worsened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. . Last summer, Toronto police clashed with homeless people and community advocates as they attempted to clear three city parks of encampments.
The enforcement blitz resulted in dozens of arrests and cost the city nearly $2 million.
The city is working to find a security provider
Finding a security company capable of providing the service seems to have been a challenge. Staff began looking for a company to patrol a number of city parks in the fall of 2021, but an existing contracted company said it couldn’t keep up with demand.
In April, the city awarded a temporary contract to provide park security to two separate companies for $500,000 until a competitive contract could be awarded a month later.
In late May, staff said they reviewed bids from a competitive process and determined that not all bids met the criteria for the request for proposals (RFP) and did not award the contract.
The city said the latest request for proposals was released Aug. 24 and includes new requirements to ensure the scope of work is clear to bidding companies.
“The RFP … contains additional details including qualifications, equipment and uniform requirements,” a city statement said.
City aims to avoid ‘repeat’ of 2021 encampments
City spokesman Brad Ross said security guards will not be used to arrest people as they set up camp in the parks.
“The strategy for 2022 was to avoid a repeat of essentially what we saw in 2021,” he said.
“Their main role is to observe and report the establishment of an encampment and advise the city, which would then send … social workers to basically engage with these people to make sure they are aware of the various services available to them.
Ross noted that security guards are authorized to act if they witness criminal activity and need to intervene. In those cases, they can make a citizen’s arrest, he said.
Perks questioned why the request for proposals was issued during Toronto’s municipal election period, when council won’t meet again to discuss the issue until later this year.
Com. Josh Matlow also criticized the new request for proposals in a social media post, calling on Mayor John Tory and the city to suspend the request for proposals.
“The City of Toronto should not hire private security companies to monitor and arrest people in public spaces,” Matlow said.
“It’s short-sighted, dystopian and fundamentally wrong.”
Diana Chan McNally, an emergency worker and homeless advocate, said she also wants to see the city reverse course and spend the money on providing more shelter space. The city does not currently have enough safe space in its system, she said.
“It’s deeply unfair and inequitable, and we’re criminalizing people for our failure as a city,” she said.
McNally said security guards will put more pressure on people who are already dealing with the stresses of homelessness. This plan will also push people further into different parts of the city away from supports.
“They are driven further, into ravines, for example, in Scarborough, or in some cases to the city center,” she said.
“We’re not actually reducing homelessness, we’re just driving it deep underground, and these people have nowhere to go.”