This tent, constructed by street artist Sean Martindale out of a street advertisement for a condo development, remained in Trinity Bellwoods Park for nearly three weeks before it attracted the City’s notice.
Almost a month ago, we wrote about a project by street artist Sean Martindale, who had “liberated” a bunch of condo street advertisements for reuse as material for pup tents, which he erected in public places in and around Trinity Bellwoods Park. Martindale said the project was, in part, a commentary on homelessness in Toronto. Of the six tents, five were either removed by Martindale, damaged, or stolen. But one of them remained undisturbed in Trinity Bellwoods Park for nearly four weeks, until last Friday, when a City parks inspector, having apparently not immediately grasped the intent of the piece, attached notices to one of its sides citing the owner for, among other things, “camping in a public park without authority.”
Martindale considers the whole thing to have been a success.
“I always hope for that kind of range of responses,” he said. “I was happy that people did think there was somebody living there. Because at least they were paying attention.”
Martindale removed the piece as soon as he became aware of the notice, and made an interesting discovery while he was at it. In front of the entry flap was a black garbage bag with some blankets and a mandarin orange inside it. He doesn’t think anyone was actually living in the tent.
“It seemed more like it was a donation by somebody, who thought that there might actually be someone living in the tent.”
“I guess I’m of two minds on that. If that was a donation I feel bad that it was left maybe for somebody who wasn’t actually there. But I am glad that people were paying attention to that aspect of the project.” Martindale donated the blankets to a charity.
And he took the notice from the City in stride. “You know, it’s nice that they gave some time for me to pick it up and remove it. But I think if I was actually living there I might feel differently about it.”
The notice on Martindale’s tent was issued by the City’s division of Parks, Forestry and Recreation. Lucky Boothe, a recreation supervisor in that division, said his staff frequently deals with issues surrounding competing claims on Toronto’s public parks, which means occasionally evicting illegal campers.
“The overall intent is to work with people within their lives,” Boothe said. City staff respond to tips concerning homelessness in public parks, but issuing a notice of the type Martindale found attached to his tent is a last resort. Usually, there’s a consultation process that happens first.
“Oftentimes the frontline staff person would contact Streets to Homes,” Boothe said, speaking about the City-endorsed initiative whose ultimate purpose is to help homeless people find long-term housing. “Streets to Homes would then go to the site with a Parks Ambassador [i.e. a Parks and Rec employee tasked with making site visits] and then see if we can deliver some services.”
Photos by Sean Martindale.