1 dead after fire at homeless encampment

One person has died following a fire at a homeless encampment under a bridge near Bloor Street East and Mount Pleasant Road, the City of Toronto said in a news release issued Friday.

“The city extends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of the deceased individual,” the release read.

Toronto fire received a call around 8:30 a.m. Friday of smoke coming from under a bridge near Glen Road and South Drive, according to Toronto Fire District Chief Stephan Powell.

Upon their arrival, crews cut through a fence to access the fire and fight the flames, Powell said, adding that there was a lot of debris.

Toronto paramedics say the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

“On behalf of all of us at @Toronto_Fire, I extend my sincere condolences to the family, friends and all those impacted by this morning’s fatal encampment fire,” Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said in a tweet Friday.

The city says this is the seventh fire fatality in an encampment in Toronto since 2010, and the first since 2018.

City ramps up efforts to house homeless

In the news release, the city said it has monitored encampment sites, removing dangerous material like propane tanks, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there’s a moratorium on clearing encampment sites, the city said outreach teams have been consistently checking on people living outside, offering services and housing options.

On Wednesday, the city announced a new program that will provide interim housing for people sleeping outdoors. That housing is located in two vacant mid-rise apartment buildings in midtown Toronto, and will offer a total of 125 furnished units for clients.

As of Thursday, the city says 36 people have moved into the units.

“This interim housing is a bridge to more permanent housing options,” the release states.

“Access to units will be prioritized for clients in encampment sites that present health and safety concerns and are identified as higher risk to COVID-19 related harms.”

Modular housing plan approved by city council

Toronto Mayor John Tory also announced a plan Wednesday that would create 110 modular homes on two city-owned sites dedicated to the Toronto’s homeless population.

And on Thursday, Toronto City Council approved the modular housing proposal during its first-ever virtual meeting.

The city says the new modular homes are expected to be ready for occupancy by September 2020 and will provide “stable, affordable housing and support services to individuals experiencing homelessness.”


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