The 42 men and women with mental illness who lost their home Friday in a violent fire are temporarily staying in a hotel, leaving many worried about what will happen to them next.

“I saw the flames and I knew it was over.  That we wouldn't be sleeping there that night,” said Taimi Tallien, who made it out of her one-and-a-half bedroom apartment Friday evening with her cat Callie.

The fire was initially treated as accidental, but was later transferred to the police arson unit.


Taimi Tallien got out of her apartment, with her cat, just in time before a fire destroyed the social housing residence. (CBC)

Tallien moved in eight years ago -- just after Manoir Edith had opened -- while dealing with severe depression and anxiety.

“I tried working and I got sicker when I was working.  So I couldn't afford regular rent anymore.”

Tallien said she’d looked at other places, but says they were depressing -- with shared bathrooms and no pets allowed.

“[At Manoir Edith], there were rules of course, but they were live-able.  They treated you like an autonomous adult, not like a child.”

Stéphane Byczak, 48, moved to Manoir Edith a few years ago when a court ordered he be placed in a group home.

“I was diagnosed anywhere from schizophrenia, to schizoaffective, to manic depressive, back to schizophrenia ... I started developing my autonomy and I haven't felt better,” Byczak said.

Manoir Edith was also a drop-in centre which serves more than 100 people. Its founder Dorotha Auger says rebuilding will be expensive.

“I think it will be difficult because the insurance will cover part of it, but I'm pretty sure not all of it. So we will need donations but we will need the support of the government,” Auger said.

Until then, residents will be relocated, but likely separated.

“I'm concerned ... What touches me so much is everybody is very functional and very stable and I'm afraid that some people might lose their stability,” Byczak said.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said Monday the city will do what it can to help.