Allan Gardens Info Centre to provide on-the-ground support

By Laura Hull –

A centre established in late June to help the city connect with the growing number of people camped at Allan Gardens will stay for the time being. The Al­lan Gardens Information and Help Centre, a modified ship­ping container placed at the park’s southeast entrance on Gerrard Street East, will con­tinue to help move encampment residents into housing until the city deems it no longer neces­sary.

As of late July, the encamp­ment had 76 tents with 64 residents. According to City Councillor Chris Moise’s en­campment dashboard, 23 of them had housing plans to move out since recording statistics in January. People live in Allan Gardens because they avoid housing staff and refuse to be put into shelters, Moise’s office said.

Since the centre was estab­lished, one person has moved into housing, three additional people have housing plans, ten tents have been removed, and the number of people declining all housing and shelter support has decreased from 14 to 9.

The number of people stay­ing at Allan Gardens increased slightly, from 62 to 64, as has the number engaging but not committing to the housing staff’s attempt to build rapport.

In a statement to the bridge, the city explained its perspec­tive: “The Centre will provide a consistent, on-the-ground pres­ence in the park to help facili­tate relationship building with encampment occupants, their advocates and other interested parties.”

It’s meant to “improve the di­rect delivery of comprehensive social and health service sup­ports, and increase engagement in housing plan development with encampment occupants.” It will also be “a resource for neighbours and other commu­nity members” who have ques­tions.

The city aims to help people find permanent housing “with the supports they need to live as independently as possible while also aiming to ensure that the park is open and available for everyone’s use and enjoyment.”

A petition to restore the Al­lan Gardens on has gathered over 2,500 signatures. The group behind it, Friends of Allan Gardens, is active on social media, promoting neigh­bourhood events in the park to revitalize it.

Nate, a resident of the area, said he hopes the centre “does what it’s saying it’ll do.”

“Before Covid, I used to like hanging out in the park,” he said. “It was a great space to spend time outside and enjoy the Conservatory. Now, I just don’t feel comfortable there.”

“I’ve seen some of the staff at the centre interact with the peo­ple living in the park, and I hope that means people are finally getting into homes,” he added.

The city said the centre will stay “while there is a signifi­cant need for on-site resourc­es.” It also established the Allan Gardens Community Working Group to help individuals find permanent housing, and the En­campment Prevention Plan to stop the growth of the encamp­ment.

The Allan Gardens centre is modelled after a similar ap­proach in Dufferin Grove Park in 2021. According to a city report, the Dufferin Grove in­itiative succeeded primarily because it brought social and health services directly to the park, aiding encampment res­idents to get help much more quickly.