High River flood victims prepare for move into temporary homes

Workers are busy putting the final touches on a temporary camp for High River flood victims who were forced from their homes last month.

100 flood evacuees currently living in hotels and dormitories allowed into the temporary community of Saddlebrook Wednesday

High River residents who will be living in temporary housing provided by the province will not have to pay rent for the first 90 days. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

Workers are busy putting the final touches on a temporary camp for High River flood victims who were forced from their homes last month.

The first hundred people are scheduled to move into the site just north of the southern Alberta town tomorrow.

"I know this isn't their original home, but it's certainly a step up from where they are," said High River Mayor Emile Blokland. "We're only three weeks to the day here where they started on this site and we already got one quarter of the project done and 200 people will be here shortly before the weekend, and I think that's absolutely incredible."

The camp can eventually hold up to 1,200 people whose homes were so badly damaged by raging floodwaters they were not allowed to return, but the temporary government housing won't be fully open until the third week of August.

"The first 90 days nobody will be charged any rent here, and then further to that we'll make an assessment in terms of what government programs that possibly cover some of the costs as we move forward, but that is yet to be determined," said Rick Fraser, the regional recovery minister for the area.

The facility is costing the province $150 per person per day. Much of the 20-acre site is still mud and dirt, but it's full of heavy machinery and workers.

There will be 215 trailers making up the neighbourhood, including family homes and dorm-style housing for single people.

There will also be three restaurants, four recreation halls, four parks, a soccer field and a dog park. Some buildings also have fitness facilities, pool tables and fire places.

Nothing has been normal, says resident

Fraser says workers have done their best to make the trailers feel like home.

Many of the evacuees have been staying with family, while others are in residences at university campuses in Calgary and Lethbridge.

High River resident Crystal Walker-Woods and her two children are currently living at the University of Calgary.

"It's nice. It's just not home and you don't feel comfortable," she said.

Her house in High River was under water for weeks. She says it's now mould-infested and unlivable.

"There's been nothing in our lives that's been normal lately," said Walker-Woods.

She said she's tired of moving around but has no choice as the university can only accommodate evacuees until the end of the month.

Fraser says it's important they will soon be closer to their homes. High River is located roughly 45 minutes south of Calgary.

A bachelor pad in the new temporary housing in High River. (Devin Heroux/CBC)
A community recreation room built for flood evacuees in High River. The recreation hall has a fitness room, pool tables and a lounge area. (Alana Baker/CBC)
Some temporary housing units have kitchens, but meals will also be available at the High River Café. (Allison Dempster/CBC)
All the homes in High River's temporary housing have names, including this unit called Bashaw. (Alana Baker/CBC)