House of Refuge Mission still struggling after October fires

Edmonton’s House of Refuge Mission is still struggling after two fires destroyed the drop-in centre in October.
Tim Choy owned the building the Hope Refuge Mission operated out of. He says he is now working with the centre's executive to relocate the shelter, but is having very little success so far. (CBC)

Edmonton’s House of Refuge Mission is still struggling after two fires destroyed the drop-in centre at 103rd Avenue and 95th Street in October.

“After the fire, we were trying to scramble in the cold weather … a lot of people needed a place,” said building owner Thim Choy.

The mission’s executive has been working with their insurance company, but the $385,000 the company is offering is not enough to rebuild, says Choy.

He said he is now trying to negotiate with the company for more money.

A further complication is the fact the building’s lot has been rezoned for residential use, meaning the House of Refuge Mission will need to restart elsewhere.

Two fires struck the Refuge of Hope Mission, a downtown Edmonton drop-in centre, within two weeks in October. (Tim Adams/CBC News)

“Right now, we’ve been trying to relocate, get a space and … get a place for the homeless to gather at least serve them a meal.”

The cause is close to Choy’s heart. As a younger man, he spent time travelling the world, eventually running out of money in France.

“I had nothing, no money, nothing, can’t write home and tell mom. I was sleeping in the subway the metro and then the police picked me up and put me in the Salvation Army,” he said.

“That’s how I learned a good lesson [about] what homelessness is all about.”

Now, Choy is doing all he can to help out – including offering up the parking lot next to his shop as a temporary fix. He is also using the location to store donated items that can help out homeless people who would otherwise be without support while the House of Refuge Mission is gone.

Choy is now working with the mission’s executive and the city to try to find a more permanent solution.