Toronto’s downtown is critically important to the city. It is the cultural centre of Ontario, the economic engine of the region, the province’s tourist hotspot and home to thousands of new residents every year. Last week, City Council supported my ongoing motions and efforts to improve the safety and health of our downtown communities by investing in our future.
On November 15, 2017, I held the Healthy Neighbourhoods Summit, which brought together 150 residents, business owners, and City staff from across the downtown to discuss pressing matters of health, safety and community vibrancy. This served as the initiation of what has become the Downtown East Action Downtown. On December 5, 2017, City Council endorsed my motion to develop a fully-funded 12-month and 5-year action plan to address these major public health, service and supports gaps.
The action plan area spans from Bay Street to the Don Valley, from the Waterfront up to Bloor, plus the Collier-Asquith neighbourhood, and will see many improvements, including the following:
- Increased park maintenance operations through new "flying squads" – up to six times per week for identified hot spots
- Increased number of Parks Ambassadors to maintain order and connect vulnerable populations to services
- Increased laneway and alley cleaning from annually to bi-weekly, and 3 times per day for hot spots, including needle collection
- Weekend Clean-up Blitz teams to provide additional cleaning supports at high-demand locations
- Improved front-line staff training for overdose prevention and mental health
- More access to City washroom and shower facilities for vulnerable community members
- 8 new peer-to-peer and harm-reduction hires to do direct outreach with vulnerable community members
- A new community services coordinator to integrate the work of municipal and community agencies in the Downtown East
- Increased street sweeping
- Replacement of damaged litter bins this year and the removal of abandoned street furniture and newspaper boxes this summer
- New recreation spaces and programs at local community centres
Immediate Actions in the Downtown East Area
In order to address the immediate challenges in the area, the City has taken action to enhance cleanliness, safety and harm reduction services in the area. For example:
- Staff dedicated to providing more frequent clean-up of roads, parks and laneways in priority hot spots across Downtown East.
- Toronto Police Services in 51 and 52 Division will provide enhanced services on the night shift in the summer months in area including Yonge-Dundas Square.
- Additional staff to provide enhanced harm reduction outreach services.
- Regular meetings of the Furthering Our Community by Uniting Services (FOCUS) Downtown East table, a partnership between the City of Toronto, Toronto Police Services and the United Way. FOCUS mobilizes inter-sectoral responses to situations where there is high risk of anti-social or criminal behaviour.
- Enhanced staffing for Parks Ambassadors to provide four seasonal and two full-time staff to the end of 2018 to help address the accessibility of our parks and public green spaces.