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'If we can’t maintain property standards, our city is lost': Encampment crackdown in OEV

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Tents, tarps, sleeping bags, and shopping carts were all gathered up by their owners, or taken away by City of London crews.

The encampment crackdown in London’s Old East Village started around 7:30 a.m. Monday.

The primary encampment was at Dundas Street and Lyle Street in the heart of the village.

Ward four Coun. Susan Stevenson insists it was a step that needed to be taken, "If the city cannot maintain property standards on that street, our city is lost."

City officials say they rely on the Coordinated Informed Response (CIR) approach, with teams made of up of bylaw enforcement officials, corporate security, and road operations members.

They were joined by members of the London Police Service (LPS) and representatives of the homelessness support agency London Cares.

A woman who was part of the encampment, and who identified herself only as ‘Elizabeth,’ recounted what they said to her, "They said 'Good luck' and, 'We're sorry' and 'We did everything we could.'”

City of London staff and London Police Service members were on hand as homeless encampments were dismantled in OEV on June 3, 2024. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)

Those on hand from LPS and most of the City of London staff left the area shortly before 9 a.m., leaving behind maintenance workers who were doing grounds work in the area.

The city says those living in encampments in the Old East Village (OEV) were told last week they would need to leave the area for routine cleaning and maintenance, referring to the action Monday morning as a ‘rapid closure protocol.’

The city says the goal is to maintain the safety of all Londoners and cleanliness of public spaces.

An encampment participant who only wanted to be identified as 'Ted' said public, well-lit spaces are where many homeless people feel safest.

"The city is telling people we're not allowed to camp in the light, in safe spots,” he explained. “They want us to camp in forests and next to the river. I think really they're just trying to sweep the problem under the rug."

Stevenson said she wants those concerns addressed, but there are also the concerns of those in nearby neighbourhoods, and of OEV business owners.

She pointed to new projects she believes could bring economic windfalls, like the Hard Rock Hotel and the Bus Rapid Transit line currently under construction.

She noted that the city invested $500,000 to the Old East Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) in the last budget.

"If we're committed to it, let's keep investing money,” she stressed. “It is a very appealing area for a lot of reasons to businesses, but without the city's commitment to it, nothing will happen."

Stevenson said the goal now is to ensure the tents and tarps don't return.

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