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'She has a lot to offer this world': Woman struggling on the street dealing with critical injuries after an early morning fire


Josh MacMillan said his friend, Olivia, is the woman who reportedly suffered critical injuries in a fire on Dundas Street, east of Adelaide Street, early Wednesday morning.

"She's a beautiful woman. She's funny. She has a lot to offer this world, and now she's stuck with these situations," said MacMillan.

Olivia and a male friend were taking shelter under a tarp in front of the Ark Aid Mission when the fire spread quickly. Emergency responders were called to the scene just before 3am.

Reports indicated Olivia experienced extensive burns, while the male victim received less serious injuries. Both were taken to hospital.

Sarah Campbell is the executive director of the Ark Aid Mission. She said the agency had been offering shelter to the pair up to just a few days ago.

"We're grateful to first responders and those who came and responded in the wee hours of the morning. At the same time, we feel a great sense of grief because those same people had been accessing indoor space just a week earlier," said Campbell.

The location on Dundas Street, east of Adelaide Street, where a woman suffered serious burn injuries on the morning of April 5, 2023. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

The mission had been offering crash beds with funding through the City of London, Ont.’s Winter Response program, but the program ended for the season on March 31.

"Certainly the week since has been difficult,” said Campbell, pointing to the less-than-ideal conditions for those who are unhoused. “We know it was rainy and a lot of people who were camping had to come uphill because of the flooding. Those who lost indoor spaces because of the closures have had to find alternative arrangements. As a result, we're seeing more people in alcoves and hover-hangs.”

Campbell knows of other small fires set by those sheltering on the street. She points to one from this week in an alcove at the front door of a business on Richmond Row.

Another fire was set at the First Baptist Church. It is another location where Ark Aid had Winter Response crash beds set up.

There was also a close call for a man who took shelter in a recycling bin at 602 Queens Ave. He was sleeping in the bin around 5 a.m. Thursday morning when a truck came to dump out the bin, tossing him into the bed of the collection vehicle.

Emergency responders were called, and fortunately, the man wasn't seriously injured and walked away. The location is the home of London Cares, an agency that also provides services for those on the streets.

Reports indicated a man was dumped from one of these bulk recycling containers into the back of a garbage truck on the morning of April 6, 2023. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)

MacMillan knows that there’s been an anonymous donation of $25 million to address homelessness, and other donations have followed. He just wants the money put to use as quickly as possible, to prevent others being put in jeopardy.

"There are means out there and there are ways to fix these things. Why they're not being done, why they're not being utilized; I'm, like everyone else, at a loss," said MacMillan.

Campbell believes London is on the right path, with plans for community support hubs that will be located across the city, but she said there's still work to be done in the short-term.

“Crash beds and mattresses are not the solution to homelessness, they are a stop-gap measure, but they most-certainly are meeting people where they’re at and allowing us as a community to go through that process of creating homes with the right supports so people can be sheltered at home in our community,” said Campbell.

When the Winter Response program ended, it also resulted in the Ark Aid laying off 50 staff members. Campbell is hoping community fundraising can allow Ark Aid to rehire people and continue to offer services.

“Right now what we need is cash donations to keep our doors open,” said Campbell. “To be able to pay for staff, to be able to open our doors for longer hours and provide adequate supports. Not just our agency but across the entire system.” Top Stories

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