News Release
May 1, 2020

Just before 8:30 this morning, Toronto Fire Services responded to a fire in an encampment near Mount Pleasant Road and Bloor Street East. Tragically, one occupant was found deceased by firefighters. A comprehensive investigation into the origin, cause and circumstances associated with this fire is underway in collaboration between Toronto Fire Services, the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and the Toronto Police Service.

The City extends its deepest condolences to the friends and family of the deceased individual. This is the seventh fire fatality in an encampment in Toronto since 2010, and the first since 2018.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the City of Toronto has monitored encampment sites and removed dangerous material, such as propane tanks. While there has been a moratorium on clearing encampments, the City’s Streets to Homes outreach teams have also continually been out, checking on people living outside and offering services, such as housing options.

On Wednesday, the City announced a new program that is immediately housing people living outside with the availability of 125 units in two apartment buildings in midtown Toronto. As of yesterday, 36 people have moved into units with 24/7 staff support, security and case management, focused on long-term housing and other immediate needs, including harm reduction supports. This interim housing is a bridge to more permanent housing options. Encampments where individuals are offered this housing will be cleared based on existing protocols after the offer of housing.

The City’s Streets to Homes outreach teams, working with community partners, are approaching individuals and couples who are sleeping outdoors for an opportunity to move into these units. 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.

Toronto has the largest shelter system in Canada, with 75 shelter and respite sites for more than 7,000 people, including almost 3,000 people already sheltered in hotels and family settings before COVID-19.

The City has opened 11 new facilities and secured more than 1,200 hotel rooms to ensure appropriate physical distancing in its shelters and respites. Some 965 people have been moved to hotel rooms, 218 into permanent housing and another 492 people to community space. The City has also established a COVID-19 recovery site with fill health care support for homeless individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

The City is also working with Toronto Community Housing and other housing providers on a rapid housing initiative, which has enabled people to move out of shelters and into permanent housing. More than 250 units have been identified for this initiative. Seventy-three people have moved into new homes, and still others are being actively matched with housing.

And yesterday, City Council approved a proposal for a modular supportive housing initiative to create 110 modular homes on two City-owned sites. 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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