New Brunswick

Fredericton rooming house fire victims seek place to stay

Former residents of a Fredericton building that was destroyed by fire over the weekend are wondering where they will go Tuesday when their emergency support ends.

Emergency assistance ends Tuesday

Former residents of a Fredericton building that was destroyed by fire over the weekend are wondering where they will go Tuesday when their emergency support ends.

The blaze destroyed a three-storey building on Carleton Street that housed Isaac's Way restaurant and an attached rooming house early Sunday.

Twenty-four of the 26 displaced tenants are clients of the Department of Social Development.

Many of the tenants were staying at a local hotel but many were told they had to leave the hotel by 3 p.m., including the building's superintendent Millie St. Onge.

"I'm getting very very worried, I thought everything was looking up, but it's not at this point in time," said St. Onge. "Where are they? Where are these people? Come on, don't make all these people wait. These people have nothing, the've lost everything."

Tim Ross, coordinator with the Community Action Group on Homelessness, said he and representatives from Social Development met with the tenants on Tuesday to make short and long-term plans.  

Ross said everyone would stay in the hotel for at least one more night. He said he sympathizes with their frustration.   

"Sometimes government is a big ship and it's hard to steer it on a dime, especially on a long weekend," he said.

St. Onge moved into the rooming house to work as the building superintendant three days before the fire.

She has a place to go, but won't leave before everyone else does, she said.

"When I know that everybody has a place to live. I’m not going to leave here without … there has to be … if one person is left, I’ll take them with me and that’s it," said St. Onge.

Almost all of the displaced tenants have been staying at the Fredericton Inn through temporary assistance from the Canadian Red Cross.

But the Red Cross only takes care of accommodations for 72 hours, until other agencies step in.

Still, officials with the local Community Action Group on Homelessness (CAGH) are confident no one will be put out on the street.

Ross said the biggest issues will come when the residents start looking for permanent housing in Fredericton. 

"We took a quick survey yesterday, average income of those affected by the fire was around $640 a month," he said. "For a bachelor suite, a one-bedroom apartment or even a room in the city, it's very difficult to afford decent housing on that income."

Donations sought

They say Department of Social Development officials will be contacting the victims of the fire Tuesday to review eligibility for disaster relief benefits.

Meanwhile, CAGH — a Fredericton-based network of non-profit organizations, government liaisons and community leaders working to end homelessness — is seeking donations and support for victims of the fire.

Although interim needs are currently being met through donations organized by two local churches, "more resources will be required in order to assist victims transitioning through this crisis," the group's website states.

On Monday, the Brunswick Street Baptist Church and Christ Central Church pulled together a last-minute turkey dinner for the people left homeless by the fire.

Churchgoers also donated clothes, toiletries and other items.

The Community Action Group on Homelessness is working on setting up an online donation system on its website. In the meantime, the group is asking landlords in the Fredericton area with vacant rooms or apartments to contact them.

No one was injured in the fire. The cause is being investigated.