Fire forces homeless camp residents to evacuate
BRANTFORD -- A fire that Brantford city officials believe was deliberately set forced residents of a homeless camp to evacuate.
They add that the roughly dozen people living there were about to be evicted.
Fire crews were called to the Greenwich Street scene around 9 a.m. on Wednesday and quickly contained the flames.
Brantford Police say they wre on site to keep the peace and assist the city.
A man was found unresponsive on scene. He was believed to have suffered hypothermia and is now recovering in hospital.
City officials add that officers were on their way to execute an illegal trespassing order issued by the owner of the private property.
"It is not safe or healthy for people to be living outside," said Brantford mayor Maria Visocchi.
The tent city has been set up at the location for several months.
A dozen people were on site at the time the camp was allegedly set on fire by one of the occupants.
Homeless advocate Becca McLellan says she saw it all and captured the fire on video.
"He torched his home in an act of protest," she said. "When the flames went up it was just this culminating tragic moment and everyone burst into tears."
The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
One resident of the camp says they were only given 22 hours notice of their eviction and many are left with nowhere else to go.
“A little more notification [that we were being evicted] would have been wonderful, but more access to housing would be good,” he said. “Trying to find a place on OW is nearly impossible and they amount they give you is very minimal.”
The City of Brantford opened a new temporary emergency shelter across the street from the camp on Monday. The operating hours are from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day.
In a statement, Visocchi says they “recognize that homelessness is a complicated issue that demands a community response and to that end will diligently continue to work with community agencies, non-profit groups and our network of Emergency Shelter facilities to provide outreach services to those in need of support services and emergency shelter."
She adds that she expects the shelter to be used more in the next few days and weeks.
The city spent roughly $400,000 to get the space running within a matter of weeks.
"I would say that demonstrates that we care immensily," said Visocchi.
City officials add that anyone who needs assistance should contact the social services support centre.