Community steps up as northeast Calgary grapples with financial aftermath of hail storm
Individuals and groups are helping people struggling to make repairs but say province needs to do more
Northeast Calgary residents and grassroots groups are busy finding ways to help those in financial trouble more than a week after a devastating hailstorm left tens of thousands of homes and cars trashed.
Entire neighbourhoods saw homes stripped of their siding with others left covered in holes as huge hail and heavy rain battered the northeast on June 13, flooding streets and major roads including Deerfoot Trail, shattering windows, tearing up roofs and battering eavestroughs.
Driving around some of the worst affected neighbourhoods like Taradale, the damage is everywhere you look.
Many cars are write-offs and others have been left with extensive and expensive body damage to repair, along with smashed windshields, rear windows and sunroofs.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the damage could be as much as $1 billion. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has reported 20,000 claims have been filed so far, including home, car and business claims. They expect even more.
But many residents weren't fully insured or face large deductibles at the same time as they're dealing with financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That's spurred small groups and individuals into action, finding different ways to help those struggling the most, through grassroots fundraising and good deeds.
"A lot of people started messaging me saying they have no insurance coverage and that they have to pay a lot of money to repair windshields," said Abid Khan, who runs a Facebook page connecting members of the Pakistani community.
"So we started a campaign and I was thrilled to see how people donated generously in just a few hours. We collected more than $4,500 in a few hours. I had to stop people sending me money," said Khan.
Khan teamed up with local businessman Moe Khawaja and Naeem Hassan, who owns Central Auto Repair Services, to organize free windshield repairs for those that can't afford them.
"This is the right thing to do at this point, this will go a long way and I believe in it. People have lost their jobs and even discontinued insurance," said Khawaja, who owns a Swiss Chalet restaurant in Shawnessy and spends a lot of time in the northeast.
"My personal goal is to help 15 people replace windshields," said Khawaja, who has covered a chunk of the costs involved.
"We are installing whatever they need at the minimum cost possible," said Hassan, owner of Central Auto Repair Services. Hassan said the cost of glass has risen since the storm, making repairs even more expensive.
"It's very hard for people when they've got no work to spend money on cars."
Khan said the provincial government needs to step up and take the storm damage more seriously.
"If you don't help these people now it will impact negatively. The politicians should take this very seriously and they can do a lot. We as individuals can just do a little," said Khan.
Others like Mohammad Farhan have been busy repairing broken windows and cleaning up homes, raising money for materials through his organization, House of Dreams, a small non-profit humanitarian group.
"Me and my neighbour got together, bought some wood and loaded up his truck. We went around talking to people and putting it up on their windows, trying to help clean up glass and remove water out of carpets and removing carpets," said Farhan, who has also been helping people with rides.
"Everyone needs help and we are getting to them," he said. "My mission is to help everyone."
Farhan said donations are only being spent on materials and to cover the cost of helping.
Another organization that helps newcomers, the Foundation For The Voice Of Immigrants In Canada For Empowerment (VOICE), is also raising money to help those left facing the financial fallout of the storm.
"We have joined together, especially with our Bangladeshi community members," said Khondoker Morshed, who speaks for the group.
"People do not have insurance or just third party insurance. They do not have money, we're still going through the COVID situation," he said.
"It's not that they are cheap, they did not take the comprehensive insurance, they just cannot afford to. They have compromised with their insurance and now they are suffering. That's why $300 or $400 can be a big help."
Morshed said the provincial government needs to stand by those impacted in the northeast and said the storm should be classified as a natural disaster, given its scale, the damage caused and how it compares to previous weather events in Alberta where help was offered.
Local NDP MLA Irfan Sabir is also calling on the provincial government to make disaster relief program money available to help people recover uninsured losses.
Sabir, MLA for Calgary-McCall, also wants UCP MLA Rajan Sawhney, who represents Calgary-North East, Calgary-North MLA, Muhammad Yaseen and Calgary-Falconridge MLA, Devinder Toor, to do more to push for provincial financial help.
"It's a disaster and there's a huge concern in the community that not all losses will be covered and they can't afford to pay for damages out of pocket," said Sabir in a Facebook video posted over the weekend.
Sabir compared the northeast hail storm to a recent flood in Fort McMurray, which caused $228 million in insured damages. He said people in that city received the province's support, so the northeast, with its estimated $1 billion in damage, should as well.
The government of Alberta launched multiple financial support programs for people affected by the spring floods in Fort McMurray including a one-time payment of $1,250 for adults and $500 for children, along with a portion of a $147 million disaster relief program to help businesses and individuals facing uninsured damages after several floods in northern Alberta.
Premier Jason Kenney visited the area on Saturday but didn't mention the possibility of any financial aid.
Joined <a href="https://twitter.com/RajanJSaw?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RajanJSaw</a> to meet with Northeast Calgary families affected by the devastating hail storm. <br><br>Sad to see yet more adversity this year, but encouraged by how neighbours have pulled together to help one another. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/YYC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#YYC</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AlbertaStrong?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AlbertaStrong</a> <a href="https://t.co/AopAAE3gQi">pic.twitter.com/AopAAE3gQi</a>—@jkenney
The city hosted a special event for anyone who suffered damage with questions about what to do next at the Genesis Centre in Martindale over the weekend.
Ward 5 Councillor George Chahal said discussions will be held in the coming weeks to determine how Calgary and city council should respond to future storms.