pproximately 33 advocates and residents walked into the Novotel hotel-shelter at 4 p.m. yesterday to demand an end to forced “police evictions” of residents.
Earlier this month Novotel shelter staff told residents the shelter would close by December 31, and all residents must leave by December 6. Many residents have been forced out with no concrete plans of where they will be placed, or placed in shelters far from their communities, employment and support systems in Scarborough or the Jane and Finch area.
The list of demands included individualized consultation for relocation plans, the right for residents to refuse evictions, an end to two-bag limits, and financial compensation for belongings that have been disposed of by staff.
Since its inception within the shelter system, residents and advocates have held issues with management’s treatment of residents and the inhumane conditions residents have lived in since April, 2021. Some residents have allegedly been sexually abused by Novotel staff, have experienced bullying and mocking by staff, and have encountered consistent mistreatment of basic necessities such as food and medication.
At 4:11 p.m., 33 residents made their way to the Novotel. Twenty-six entered the building and the remainder stood by the doors outside. Within two minutes, two Toronto Police Service [TPS] officers arrived at the hotel-shelter, along with three Star security and two community staff members who stood opposite advocates and residents.
Residents and advocates demanded to speak to Lacey Kerr, who works as the Novotel's site manager, and Patricia Mueller, the executive director of Homes First, the support service for housing sites that operates Novotel’s services. Kerr was present inside and didn’t answer residents' and advocates' questions, only stating they must leave. Police claimed advocates and residents were trespassing and threatened Dredz, a current resident, with the same trespassing warning.
“Why are police [forcing] people from the building after being told they need housing,” says Dredz. “Don’t give us excuses, we’re here and we are stakeholders, our lives are at stake while you’re making a profit… we’re allowed to be angry because we’ve been neglected.”
“Give us an answer.”
At 4:20 p.m., staff and police asked non-residents to leave the premise. By 4:29 p.m., seven police officers were present in the hotel-shelter. A list of demands was plastered inside the hotel-shelter. After 15 minutes of residents voicing their concerns, including sexual misconduct by staff, the police presence increased and advocates and residents were dragged out of the Novotel. The remainder of the residents exited the building peacefully after approximately seven supporters were dragged out by police.
Residents and advocates continued to voice their concerns as 24 police officers barricaded the hotel-shelter doors. Police continued to act forcefully with supporters, pushing them near the curb of the hotel-shelter.
The rally ended at 5:05 p.m., with the police still blocking the hotel-shelter door. The list of demands remained inside and outside the building as supporters dispersed.
“We’ll be back, we’ll be back!” shouted supporters.
UPDATE: Dredz, a resident of the hotel shelter, was arrest at 1 a.m. following the events at the Novotel. He has been released on bail and has been evicted from the shelter.