Mississauga encampment residents say the government has failed them after surviving January’s coldest night
Overflowing shelters, anti-homeless architecture, and violence are among the many challenges encampment residents face.

In light of last month’s dangerously cold temperatures, Ontario encampment residents—including ones in Mississauga—are calling on the government for urgent support.

Recent reports by some Mississauga and Toronto encampment residents shed light on the dire situation faced by those without shelter, highlighting overflowing shelters, contentious encampment clearances, and the daunting challenges of anti-homeless architecture. 

The winter season does not only pose physical hardships but also exacerbates existing societal divides, leaving many vulnerable individuals grappling for survival amidst indifference and systemic shortcomings.

The frigid temperatures bring forth a harsh reality for individuals like Jamie Lee Pauk, who found solace and community in makeshift encampments scattered throughout the city. Pauk’s reluctance to leave her encampment near St.-Stephen-in-the-Fields Anglican Church underscores the deep-rooted connections and lifelines that these spaces provide. 

Despite receiving eviction threats and facing freezing conditions, Pauk’s determination to remain stems from the sense of belonging and support she has cultivated within her community. However, as city crews clear these encampments citing safety concerns, residents like Pauk are left in precarious positions, grappling with the loss of vital resources and the uncertainty of where to seek shelter next. 

The challenges extend beyond encampments, as the strained shelter system grapples with increasing demand and limited capacity. The City of Toronto’s Winter Services Plan for People Experiencing Homelessness aims to address the escalating need for shelter and warmth yet falls short in the face of mounting challenges. 

Last October, an average of 300 people were turned away per day, painting a stark picture of the system’s shortcomings. Despite efforts to expand capacity and establish warming centers, the reality remains bleak for many seeking refuge from the bitter cold.

Chris, a Brampton resident, spent the past four months living in a Mississauga hydrofield. Chris told CityNews he feels “completely abandoned by all levels of government.” According to him, the government has let him and other encampment residents down after surviving one of the coldest nights of January in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). 

The influx of asylum seekers adds another layer of complexity to an already strained system. With refugee claimants seeking shelter in alarming numbers, the city’s resources are stretched thin, exacerbating the plight of those experiencing homelessness. 

Amid these challenges, the issue of anti-homeless architecture emerges as a stark reminder of the systemic barriers faced by the GTA’s homeless community. Hostile design elements, including metal spikes along fountains, concrete barriers, and sidewalks, serve as deterrents, further marginalizing individuals already grappling with housing insecurity. The pervasive presence of such architectural features underscores the systemic nature of homelessness, perpetuating cycles of exclusion and hardship.

Furthermore, the prevalence of violence and theft within shelters compounds the risks faced by homeless individuals seeking refuge. Despite the availability of shelter beds, concerns regarding safety and security deter many from accessing these resources, leaving them vulnerable to the unforgiving elements of winter.

Associate News Editor (Volume 50) — Karine is currently completing her bachelor’s degree specializing in Digital Enterprise Management at UTM. She has been involved with The Medium since 2022 as a contributor. She hopes to contribute to society's efforts to provide authentic and factual journalistic media to educate her readers during her time at The Medium. Her goal is to take her interest in ongoing research within the business and technology field and explore ways to share it with others through this platform. In her spare time, she enjoys going on walks, FaceTiming her family, and painting sunsets with her friends. Moreover, she passionately pursues the chase of the Aurora Borealis, seeking to experience and capture the breathtaking beauty of these natural light displays. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *