Second homeless man dead as bitter cold envelops city
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Clutching candles and shivering, about two dozen people gathered at the southwest corner of Yonge and Dundas Sts. on Tuesday evening to mourn the second person to die in two days in the bitter cold that has enveloped the city.
“A man died here last night and there was no need for it,” said Keith Nunn, a member of the Church of the Holy Trinity, which organized the memorial. “We need to take full responsibility as a society for all the members in it.”
Bouquets of flowers and rose petals were left in the streetcar shelter where an unresponsive man in his 40s was discovered early Tuesday morning wearing little more than a T-shirt, jeans and a hospital bracelet.
As temperatures continued to plummet across the GTA Tuesday evening, the City of Toronto opened up additional shelter spaces as well as two 24-hour warming centres. The announcement came amidst outrage from advocates for the homeless who felt the city wasn’t doing enough for those most at risk from the cold.
As attendees prayed at the memorial near Yonge-Dundas Square, a woman openly wept while another, who said she knew the homeless man, said the city needs to do more to protect its most vulnerable.
“Everyday, one of my street family is dying because of this cold weather,” Tabitha Turk, who has lived on the streets of Toronto for 15 years, said at the vigil. “Nobody (cares) about us out here. They treat us like we’re invisible.”
Emergency personnel were called to the scene shortly before 5:30 a.m., said police spokesperson Const. Jeniffer Sidhu. The man wasn’t moving when police found him.
“He was immediately transported to hospital,” Sidhu said. “Police drove the ambulance while paramedics worked on the man.”
It’s not known if the man had been hospitalized prior to his discovery. A spokesperson for the closest hospital, St. Michael’s, said they had no reports of a patient going missing overnight.
The man’s death followed another on Monday when a man in his 60s, also believed to be homeless, was discovered inside a graffiti-covered delivery truck at a shipping yard near Davenport Rd. and Lansdowne Ave. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police have yet to release the names of either man or the exact causes of their deaths. With wind chill, temperatures hovered close to -20 C when both men were found.
On Tuesday, protesters criticized Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health for not issuing an Extreme Cold Weather Alert. Such an alert would have immediately triggered additional services for the city’s homeless.
Alerts are declared by the city when Environment Canada forecasts temperatures of -15 C or below. As of Tuesday night, no such alert had been issued, though one was expected on Wednesday. Environment Canada, meanwhile, issued an extreme cold warning for Toronto on Tuesday afternoon.
On Tuesday morning, Mayor John Tory told reporters that although issuing an alert was not his call, he hoped that public health officials would exercise discretion “in favour of homeless people.”
“The death of anyone on the streets of Toronto, any single person ever, is one too many and so I think that we have to sort of redouble our efforts.”
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