Inquiry into homeless man's death finds more social services needed
A portrait of Grant Alex Faulkner, known to friends as 'Gunner,' sits next to an urn in Scarborough, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2018 2:39PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 20, 2018 5:55PM EDT
TORONTO -- An inquest examining the systemic factors that caused a homeless man to die in a fire while seeking shelter from the cold has recommended social supports be more accessible to those in need.
A jury at the inquest examined the case of 49-year-old Grant Faulkner, who died in Toronto when a wooden shack where he was staying in an industrial park caught fire in January 2015.
Temperatures dropped to -20 C in the city on the day of his death.
The inquest made 35 recommendations to prevent similar deaths from happening in the future, though there's no legal obligation that they be implemented.
The jury recommended that the province increase the amount of income provided to people receiving social assistance "to reflect the real cost of shelter and basic needs," and make a "shelter allowance" available to help people secure housing.
It also recommended the province provide a transportation allowance to all people receiving social assistance.
Another recommendation was to establish a permanent memorial in east-end Toronto -- such as a parkette in his name -- "to provide the important ongoing public safety message that the protection of the homeless in Ontario is every citizen's responsibility."
The Ministry of Housing, one of three ministries named in the jury verdict, responded for the government, saying they are "aware of the jury recommendations from the Grant Faulkner inquest and are carefully reviewing them to ensure an appropriate response."
The inquest, which was announced in 2016 at the same time as one for another homeless man, began last week and heard from about 15 witnesses.
"Those that end up being homeless are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable," said Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, noting that the recommendations are a vital step towards helping the province's most vulnerable people.
The RNAO is part of a coalition that had standing at the inquest, and included several other groups such as the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, The Empowerment Council and Health Providers Against Poverty.
"We are pleased that this unjust tragedy of Mr. Faulkner serves at least as a springboard to bring about some solutions," Grinspun said.