TRYING TO FIND ANSWERS – BUT OFFICIALS AREN’T TALKING
Residents of 650 Parliament St. in Toronto are approaching three months of not being able to get back into their homes. Christmas is approaching, and still there is no news on when they can move back in.
Some residents say, when they were allowed back in their apartments to collect winter belongings they found a state of disrepair, clothes and items strewn about on beds, and things thrown on the floors (see Sheldon Neil’s interview with a resident Karen Elizabeth here.
A six-alarm electrical fire left the 1,500 residents homeless. Lives disturbed, personal belongings left behind, as they scattered to find shelter. Many people had to find new temporary places to live, wade through the insurance process – if they had tenant insurance – and wait for more information. Others are still looking for a place to live.
Who is responsible to care for these people whose lives have been overturned?
The city of Toronto says they provided assistance for the first 14 days, 90 days later a response from Beth Waldman, Interim Director, Strategic Communications for the City of Toronto said, “The City’s involvement in this incident is now concluded.”
The Red Cross, who help more than one million Canadians a year have also stepped away. The vice-president of Red Cross Ontario, Tanya Elliott, told Context’s Molly Thomas: “Over the past several weeks, the property manager has taken responsibility for temporary accommodation for the residents. We remain in contact with the city of Toronto to see if there’s any further support that may be required. But right now residents are just awaiting the dates that they’ll be able to return home.”
The City also states the onus is now on property management at 650 Parliament, “After the initial response and support from the City of Toronto, the private property owner, through its property management company Wellesley Parliament Square Property Management (WPSQ), assumed responsibility for communication to displaced residents and coordination of services.” Context reached out several times to Wellesley Parliament Square Property Management (WPSQ) and did not receive a response.
Residents are understandably upset, saying there has been little communication. Karen Elizabeth says she’s lucky to have family she could stay with. But even she felt alone through the cracks of the process, “We had to stay with family, we had to find our own sublets, we’ve been paying for everything out of our own pockets and finding our own places to live.” Sheldon Neil interviewed Karen on her struggle…
With less than a 2% vacancy rate in the city, finding a place to live, especially temporarily, is no easy feat. Elizabeth says other people in the apartment are struggling to work through the basic needs:
“There’s a lot of new immigrants, a lot of families who are East Indian or East Asian, and they’re usually just terrified and looking for help on really basic things like: How do I write a letter? How do I read this information from the lawyer? How do I find somewhere to live when I don’t know anyone in this city?” Elizabeth says the community is banding together in a time of need is heartwarming.
Some organizations are doing their part to help this community. Toronto City Mission has been active in the area and a local church, Trinity Life are sponsoring at least one family and setting up activities and meal drives.
Learn more about Toronto City Mission: http://www.torontocitymission.com/st-james-town/
And, Trinity Life church has also stepped in: https://trinitylife.ca/blog/2018/08/23/4-ways-trinity-is-helping-residents-of-st-james-town-displaced-by-fire
Do you know of any other organizations helping 650 Parliament St. residents? Let us know!
For our full episode on helping our neighbours: