People living in a homeless encampment, displaced by a fire under the Osborne St. Bridge Wednesday morning plan to rebuild, according to Main Street Project executive director Rick Lees.
About 14 people had been living in the camp but only seven were present when the fire broke out destroying tents and people’s belongings. No one was seriously hurt.
Lees said the residents held a community meeting and decided they want to stay under the bridge, at least for now.
Lees said they will stay until it’s too cold. Main Street Project is working with the group to provide clothing, warm supplies and will continue to do wellness checks, daily.
“So it’s ‘what is the state of your accommodation,’ we try to provide advice and education around these sorts of things – so that’s what our teams do,” said Lees.
“It’s not just about bringing food and clothing and sewing – it’s trying to say, ‘is your environment safe and how can we help you with that,’ right down to a flashlight’s a better thing than a candle and we’ll bring those sorts of supports to people.”
While the fire remains under investigation residents said Wednesday it was started by a burning candle.
Some are using candles to keep their tents warm at night.
“I think it’s a concern but I want to put it into perspective,” said Lees. “I have a larger concern, to be honest with you, about the state of rooming houses in the city and if you’ve ever toured through a rooming house these places are dangerous. I worry more about a fire that would occur in one of those facilities than I do about a fire in a camp.”
“This is not a good situation and I’m not downplaying at all; this could’ve been much worse but at the end of the day we have a whole bunch of situations: abandoned buildings that people are finding safety in, rooming houses that people are living in and paying rent in that I think are tinder boxes.”
Lees said people are staying in the tents even as the temperature drops because they feel safe as a community and they’d rather have their own space – something they can’t get in a shelter.