Council was told security hired to prevent encampments wouldn’t make arrests. One councillor is questioning why city documents say otherwise.
Gerry Byrne has a message for any city employees or volunteers who believe they can use their taxpayer-funded privileges to shut down encampments: No. He has spent years trying to get this city to adopt a strong policy against these groups.
“I have been doing this for over twenty years, and I have never seen it work,” he said. “You will never stop an encampment, but you can stop a bad camp, and I think the reason why we couldn’t stop this one is because [an encampment] was legal in this city.”
Byrne, city councillor for Parkdale-High Park and a long-time supporter of the homeless, has been on the front lines of some of the city’s biggest battles, working with members of the city’s executive to find solutions to the city’s homeless issues, including helping to develop an anti-camping policy.
He is also one of at least 28 city councillors to have come out against the closure of the encampment, which has existed for nearly 13 years.
The encampment, which has been approved for more than two years, is an eyesore in the quiet and quiet neighbourhood that was once considered one of the city’s quietest and most up-and-coming neighbourhoods.
Many say the encampment has become a liability to its residents, who have been dealing with an increasing number of police reports and complaints related to drug use, theft and property damage at the makeshift camp.
“I was not surprised,” Boulichon said about Byrne’s involvement in the fight to keep the encampment open. “I didn’t know Gerry well, I just knew that he is always very passionate, and I know that he is a very tough guy in general.”
Boulichon said she asked Byrne to join two city councillors in speaking with the public about the situation over the past month, and she was surprised and impressed with his work to keep the camp open.
“It was a bit of a shock to me, but I was also very impressed with him,” she said.
“I think he’s been doing this for a long time, but he’s still got