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'We need homes to go to': Fire destroys two tents at Kitchener encampment, leaving two people displaced

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Two people have been displaced after a fire tore through two tents and severely damaged another at a Kitchener encampment.

Kitchener Fire was called to the Weber and Victoria Street encampment around 9:45 a.m. Saturday to find the tents engulfed in flames.

Crews respond to a fire at a Kitchener encampment on Nov. 25, 2023. (Dan Lauckner/CTV Kitchener)

Deputy Chief Chris Davidson says no injuries were reported and the people living in the tents were able to get out safely.

"Yeah, that's why we came out to make sure we were safe and make sure it didn't spread around," said tent city resident Dean Daly.

Daly, who was inside his own tent just metres away, says it was a shocking scene.

"Oh I saw big flames coming from my tent, I put my window down and I saw the flames enter the tents and I came out," said Daly.

Davidson says a cooking mishap caused the fire, leading to two residents to be displaced from their homes.

The aftermath of a fire at a Kitchener encampment on Nov. 25, 2023. (Hannah Schmidt/CTV Kitchener)

“I rushed all the way downtown just to get here just to make sure everybody was okay," said tent city resident Sara Fleet.

"What you see here is somebody else's frame of mind, somebody else's uniqueness, and everybody else's uniqueness now is reduced to rubble," said tent city resident Adam McCabe.

HOUSING CONCERNS AHEAD OF WINTER

The recent incident comes at a time when tent city residents are already having a hard time finding a place to live as winter approaches. 

Residents are calling for additional aid and affordable housing options as temperatures drop and shelter systems faces incredible strain.

"We need homes to go to, we can't be doing this," said McCabe.

Despite sharing tents and bundling up, some say it’s near impossible to stay warm.

"People are buying wood stoves and everything, we’re freezing out here," said Fleet. "I got like ten blankets in my tent on me and my husband."

If it gets too cold, warming up with a fire is a risk many are willing to take.

"There's a percentage it'll get out of control, [because] you end up falling asleep," said tent city resident Ronald.

Since last year, the Region of Waterloo and The Working Centre opened 230 shelter beds, but Daly says it’s still not enough.

"We have no home for ourselves," said Daly. "With housing, there's houses but we can't go anywhere with it, we have to wait five years for a home how does that work?"

Both housing advocates and those facing homelessness are calling for additional shelter spaces to be created as the winter months quickly approach.

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