Press Release from Home Depot on the eviction of Tent CityTuesday, September 24, 2002
Growing health and safety concerns prompt end to unlawful occupation
Canada NewsWire TORONTO - Growing concern for the safety of occupants, visitors to the site and the broader community have prompted The Home Depot Canada, with the support of the Toronto Police Service, to end the unlawful inhabitation of its property at Lakeshore Blvd. and Cherry St. in downtown Toronto. The property had become occupied by a collection of individuals living in makeshift structures that fail to meet any safety code or standard. For nearly two years, The Home Depot has been working with agencies including its community-housing partner, Homes First Society, and the City of Toronto to resolve this unlawful occupation. Unfortunately, a solution could not be found and worsening conditions at the site compelled the company to act.
"Home Depot Canada has always had two primary concerns- the people and their safety," said Annette Verschuren, President, The Home Depot Canada. "After learning about the worsening conditions at the site, we had to do the right thing and remove these people from a dangerous and deteriorating situation."
"We have worked closely with authorities to ensure that these people will have access to Toronto's social services support network," said Ms. Verschuren. She cited the company's work with the Office of the Police Chaplain to organize the care and counselling assistance of trained staff from the Yonge Street Mission, medical staff from the Toronto Police Service and to notify agencies such as the Salvation Army and the City of Toronto Housing Group to be prepared to assist those in need of help. Home Depot is taking special care to safeguard all personal belongings and everyone will have an opportunity to reclaim these items.
The growing health and safety risks include:
- Serious Criminal Activity - The site has become a haven for drug dealing and prostitution. Home Depot has learned that there have been several serious violent incidents on the property and many of the people who visit the site appear to do so to buy crack cocaine.
- Threat of Accidental Fire - The Toronto Fire Services have identified numerous Fire Code violations that pose serious safety threats to the inhabitants and have also responded to a number of fires on the site.
- Unsafe Electrical Hook-ups - Electricity is being stolen from nearby sources and potentially deadly electrical connections have been noted in structures throughout the site, further contributing to fire and safety concerns.
- Deteriorating Sanitary Conditions - Sanitary conditions on the site have grown worse with the continued accumulation of garbage, human and medical waste. A June 2002 Toronto City Council directive indicates the City of Toronto has similar concerns.
- Environmental Concerns - The soil on the site was left contaminated by previous industrial use. Since purchasing the site, Home Depot notified the appropriate agencies of the environmental concerns and distributed notices to those living on the site advising them of the hazard and indicating that they must leave the property.
The Home Depot, which has no plans for the development of the site, is constructing a fence around the property, will have 24-hour security, and intends to begin the process of making the site environmentally safe.
Founded in 1978, The Home Depot is the world's largest home improvement specialty retailer and the second largest retailer in the United States. The company employs more than 296,000 associates and has 1,451 stores in 49 states, Puerto Rico, seven Canadian provinces, and Mexico. The Home Depot Canada is committed to helping create more affordable housing and working with organizations to aid the homeless. In Canada, we partner with Habitat for Humanity and provide over $1 million/year in support. The Home Depot Canada has also been recognized for its community service by the Ontario Ministry of Community, Family and Children's Services.More information on The Home Depot can be obtained at www.homedepot.com.