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A Toronto homeless shelter was shaken by a deadly stabbing Saturday morning, the shelter operator’s chief executive said as she reflected on the latest incident of violence to unsettle a system under pressure.

“We are very upset with this horrible incident and this horrible outcome,” Homes First CEO Patricia Mueller said in a phone interview.

“We care deeply about the health and safety of our clients and we’re doing everything we can to cooperate with the police as fully as possible.”

A City of Toronto spokesperson says officials were aware of the “unfortunate news” of a fatal stabbing at the shelter and directed further questions to police.

Officers responded around 1:55 a.m. to reports of a stabbing at the shelter on Lake Shore Boulevard at Bathurst Street. Toronto police said a man in his 50s was found with stab wounds and died in hospital.

A 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene, police said, though they did not immediately provide details on any charges he may be facing.

Mueller said both men were residents at the 74-bed men’s shelter. She said no staff were injured.

“We typically have access to grief counsellors for our staff and our clients to deal with people’s emotions and fear for their own safety,” she said. “Although we recognize that this was an isolated incident, it can be very triggering for some individuals. It’s tough enough being homeless.”

Mueller said residents had been moved to other parts of the shelter while police conducted their investigation. She did not anticipate any “major relocations” on Saturday.

A recent review co-authored by researchers at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health suggested fears of violence and other forms of harm were prominent concerns for people accessing shelters, with those identifying as LGBTQ at heightened risk.

Data obtained by The Canadian Press through freedom of information laws shows the number of violent incidents at Toronto shelters spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, which some shelter users have cited as a reason for an increase in outdoor encampments.

The city’s winter service plan has added an additional 180 shelter beds to its 9,400 spaces, which routinely operate at capacity. But the city has previously acknowledged the plan may not be enough to address shelter and housing demand. Publicly shared city data shows an average of 245 people a day were turned away from the system in November. The average number the month before was closer to 300 people a day, up 56 per cent from the same period the year before.

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