Statement: Rights-based approach to encampments will save lives

January 15, 2024

As cities respond to encampments during extreme weather, Women’s National Housing & Homelessness Network calls for a stop to the sweeps


In light of the recent extreme cold weather warnings in communities across Canada, members of the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network (WNHHN) have informed us that rights of unhoused and unsheltered individuals seeking respite are being egregiously violated.  

As cities across Canada respond to these extreme weather situations, the WNHHN is calling for a dignified rights-based response for individuals living in informal tent communities, individuals accessing shelters and warming centres, and individuals temporarily seeking respite in transit systems or in other public infrastructure. 

Under such circumstances, we are calling on decision makers to:

  • Immediately end the use of trespass orders, bylaws, and policing to forcibly evict unhoused individuals from encampments, and to remove unhoused individuals from transit and other public infrastructure where they are accessing respite from extreme temperatures. This is particularly crucial for safeguarding the rights of women and gender-diverse people experiencing homelessness.
    • Further, implement an absolute moratorium on forced evictions of unhoused individuals from encampments during cold weather warnings. 
  • Allow 24/7 hour access to public bathrooms and restrooms, particularly in areas in close proximity to informal tent communities where individuals can access respite when needed. A rights-based approach insists on providing essential services, including clean water, sanitation facilities, electricity, and heat, with careful consideration for the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women and gender-diverse individuals within encampments.

  • Find immediate housing alternatives for unhoused individuals, on their own terms, that allow them to be protected from extreme weather conditions.  

  • Create and expand capacity and spaces in 24/7 warming and respite centres for unhoused individuals that are resourced with bathrooms and clean drinking water at all times. 


Adapted from Ontario Commission on Human Rights