February 17, 2021

My Statement on the Encampment Fire at Orphan’s Green Park

This morning, Toronto Fire Services were called to Orphan’s Green Park, near Adelaide Street E and Power Street in Corktown, responding to a fire at an encampment in the park. Unfortunately, one person was found deceased on site. When I spoke to Toronto Fire’s Acting Chief Jessop, he advised that the fire burned so quickly that there wasn’t much the firefighters could do. The Fire Marshall has been called to investigate this tragedy.

My heart breaks for this individual who was simply trying to stay warm on these frigid winter nights. Our goal is to get everyone safely indoors this winter, and the City of Toronto has committed to that action by finding emergency funding in the event that the City cannot meet the demands on its shelter system. Additionally, the City of Toronto is committed to funding ‘survival’ equipment and/or supplies at encampments. I think we can agree that everyone has the right to adequate housing with supports that meet their needs.

The City of Toronto continues to open emergency shelter spaces and lease temporary properties to accommodate physical distancing. I also understand why emergency shelter spaces in congregate settings are not attractive options for people. These spaces can be very triggering to those who have experienced trauma or can feel unwelcoming. When our outreach staff works with these clients, it can sometimes take 15 connections before someone stays housed. When I hear these statistics, I know that the need for more supportive and transitional housing is critical. Without these services, the cycle of residents being left underhoused, or unhoused will continue. 

It is clear that tents and temporary structures carry their own risks, and are not suitable replacements for permanent housing. It is critically important that we create opportunities to bring everyone indoors this winter, City Council has committed to this, but we cannot do this work alone. We need the Federal and Provincial governments to step up with funding for more affordable, supportive, and transitional housing in municipalities across the country. Without that, this housing crisis will exact a human, social and economic toll that is as unnecessary as it is tragic.

Please take action to demand more financial aid to scale up rapid and modular supportive housing in the coming months. To learn more about what I’ve done and what more needs to be done and how you can support this work, please visit kristynwongtam.ca/homelessness.


Contact:
Megan Poole
647-332-5449

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