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Toronto homeless safer in tents than shelters during pandemic, court hears

TORONTO — A group of homeless people living in Toronto encampments are telling a court it’s safer to live in tents than be forced to stay in shelters or hotels far away from services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, which includes 14 people living in encampments as well as activists, is seeking an interim order allowing homeless individuals to stay in city parks until a constitutional challenge of a bylaw is heard.

The bylaw bans living or camping in parks after midnight.

The group says the city’s threats to remove them from parks violates their charter rights, and says the city’s attempts to clear the camps is cruel.

The city argues that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not entitle members of the group to live in parks.

It says it has worked hard to make shelters safer during the pandemic and has found temporary or permanent homes for hundreds living in encampments.

Since the pandemic began, hundreds of people have fled shelters out of fear of contracting COVID-19 and have been living outside.

There have been 649 cases of COVID-19 in the city’s shelter system and five deaths.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 1, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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