Unhoused


One to two thousand people sleep rough in Toronto every night; meaning they are living outdoors under bridges, in tents, and makeshift shelters. With the COVID-19 pandemic encampments began to spring up in parks throughout the city. With restrictions in place for months at a time, the availability of indoor spaces was drastically reduced forcing unhoused people to stay outside for longer periods of time.

Photojournalist Nick Kozak began photographing stories around homelessness in 2020, and regularly visited several encampments in late 2020 and throughout 2021, as he sought to gain a deeper understanding of the people experiencing homelessness in his community.


The images here are organized chronologically starting in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In late 2020 a man known as Georgia, who was living at an encampment near Toronto’s waterfront, became a vocal point in Nick’s photographs. After a fire engulfed and destroyed Georgia’s encampment, and resulted in him being hospitalized, Georgia eventually moved to Trinity Bellwoods Park. Georgia introduced Nick to friends living around him. He provided insight into the realities of homelessness and survival in the urban outdoors. 


The photographs shed light on the daily life and survival in the encampments. They provide glimpses of the lives lived and the environments around them.


As the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on so did the realities of living without housing in unsanctioned encampments in public parks. People came and went; some were banished by residents of encampments and found other places to sleep, others were put up in hotels by the city. In the summer of 2021 City of Toronto mandated evictions of encampments led to clashes between encampment residents, and their supporters, and the Toronto Police Services. Trinity Bellwoods Park and Alexandra Park were cleared of all encampments. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the severity of homelessness. The need for affordable and supportive housing has never been more evident yet the complexities around homelessness continue to confound a city that ought to have the resources to do something about it.

March 30, 2020: Various items strewn outside of a makeshift shelter next to the Metropolitan United Church.

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May 15, 2020: Members of the Toronto Police Services approach a man during the eviction of his encampment under the Gardiner Expressway.


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October 5, 2020. Domenico Saxida repairs his encampment at Alexandra Park following a police raid in the middle of the night.

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December 7, 2020: A deteriorating Canadian flag towel on the ground next to an encampment in Moss Park.

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5. December 9, 2020: Jimmy the Artist, in costume, mimics a gorilla, at an encampment next to Fleet Street.

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December 10, 2020: Clancy and Mateo sit inside a makeshift shelter next to Fleet Street. Days later the entire encampment was destroyed by a fire.

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December 15, 2020: Georgia inside a dumpster behind a condominium shop where he collects discarded packaged groceries. 

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December 17, 2020: Clancy looks over items at The Bentway, where he stayed for weeks awaiting his friend Georgia to be discharged from the hospital, following injuries sustained in the Fleet Street fire.

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January 6, 2021: Various pieces of debris, including a needle, lay scattered at an abandoned encampment at The Bentway.

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January 20, 2021: A City of Toronto crew removes the remnants of an abandoned encampment in Trinity Bellwoods Park.


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January 28, 2021: Georgia looks through found and donated items in his tent in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

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February 5, 2021: Kenny inside a tent in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

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February 13, 2021: Georgia uses a brush to remove snow accumulating on his tent in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

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February 16, 2021: A man who referred to himself as "I Swim", inside Georgia's tent in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

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February 17, 2021: Two Toronto Tiny Shelters in Orphans Green Park; one destroyed by a fire that killed a man inside.


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February 18, 2021: Kenny pokes his head out from a tent in Trinity Bellwoods Park.


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February 18, 2021: Jimmy the Artist looks through his items in a tent in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

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February 18, 2021: "I Swim" and Georgia eat chilli out of cups while they wait for a light to change green at Queen and Shaw streets.

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February 18, 2021: "I Swim" and Georgia eat chilli out of cups while they wait for a light to change green at Queen and Shaw streets.

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March 8, 2021: J the Letter pours fake blood onto a costume piece next to his Toronto Tiny Shelter in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

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March 30, 2021: Georgia's encampment in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

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June 22, 2021: J the Letter and Matthew, are approached by members of the Toronto Police Services Public Order unit, during the eviction of encampments in Trinity Bellwoods Park.

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June 24, 2021: Georgia uses his mouth to feed a baby pigeon underneath a bridge near The Bentway.

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July 20, 2021: Heavy machinery is used to remove items during an eviction of encampments in Alexandra Park.

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July 27, 2021: Georgia looks through items found in a dumpster next to the Gardiner Expressway.

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