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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Montreal evacuates homeless camp over safety concerns

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Montreal on Sunday ordered an "emergency evacuation" of a homeless camp that formed over the summer, citing safety reasons after a fire broke out the day before.

"Following several fires and in light of a large number of dangers on the site, including a lot of flammable material," it was determined that "the safety of the occupants is seriously threatened," the city said in a statement.

All along the edges of Notre-Dame Street, in the east of the city, the camp — the first of its kind in Montreal — has dozens of tents for homeless people, some of whom were thrown out of their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The fire on Saturday, sparked by a candle, caused no injuries but "could have had catastrophic consequences," the city said. With the arrival of winter, there has been a "significant increase in the use of homemade heating equipment and flammable material."

The evacuation request was made by representatives from the transportation ministry, which owns the site, firefighters and police officers. Social workers were on site Sunday to accompany camp occupants to emergency accommodation.

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Montreal mayor Valerie Plante said the city would "do what is necessary to accommodate the campers in a safe place."

No force was used, and no campsites were destroyed, police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant told AFP.

Brabant added that most of the occupants were still at the camp Sunday evening.

"We used a community approach to try to relocate people to a safe and warm place because we know that in the next few days, temperatures will change," he said.

Montreal said it is making "unprecedented efforts to ensure the safety of people in a situation of homelessness," adding it has doubled resources compared to last winter, including 400 additional emergency beds.

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