Gatineau tornado victims searching for new homes

The City of Gatineau is working with the Red Cross to try to find long-term housing for the people who were displaced by the tornado that struck Mont-Bleu.

City has housing committee, hotline for businesses that want to help

David Bergevin, his girlfriend and her son have moved in with family and friends since the tornado tore the roof off their Mont-Bleu home. (Max Paris/CBC)

People who have lost their homes to the tornado in Gatineau's Mont-Bleu neighbourhood are searching for a place to try and re-establish their lives. 

David Bergevin has stayed with relatives and friends since Friday's storm ripped the roof off the building where he lives with his girlfriend and her son.

"[We're] devastated, trying to get through the shock, because we haven't really had time for it to seep in to be honest," Bergevin said.

"We've been running around trying to find a place to live, trying to figure things out from here."

The City of Gatineau and the Canadian Red Cross announced a committee Tuesday to help people find long-term housing, with the Red Cross providing some financial assistance.

The top floor of the building where David Bergevin lives in Gatineau, Que., is exposed to the elements after the roof was ripped off by a tornado. (Max Paris/CBC)

Bergevin said the recent turn in the forecast has made the search for a home even more urgent.

"We don't have a roof, the rain is seeping through each floor and now it is coming into our place," he said.

"It's a matter of time: is the ceiling going to collapse, and [will] everything [be] completely gone?"

Bergevin said he has begun looking for a new apartment but the search has been difficult.

The family is looking for storage for their things in the meantime.

"Right now we know we are not the only people in this situation, everyone is in a race against time," he said.

David Bergevin's family has gone to relatives and friends for temporary shelter after a tornado made their Mont-Bleu apartment in Gatineau, Que., uninhabitable. (David Richard/CBC)

Demolitions begin

The City of Gatineau returned control of the 212 buildings damaged by the storm to owners Tuesday.

The demolition of some of the structures that were beyond repair has also begun.

Sophie Matte went to see her parents' home in a funeral of sorts. About half the building collapsed, the roof came off and landed on a car.

Sophie Matte, who grew up in Gatineau's Mont-Bleu neighbourhood, watched her childhood home come down on Tuesday. The neighbourhood was one of the hardest hit by tornadoes that swept through the region on Sept. 21. 1:33

"It's my childhood home," she said. "It's all my father's life. Everything he accumulated in his life was there."

Matte's parents saved their wedding album. She was able to salvage her Harry Potter books and childhood writing.

Red Cross to subsidize rent

The Canadian Red Cross has registered more than 1,500 people for services in Mont-Bleu.

The organization said the vast majority are renters and about half don't have insurance.

Pascal Mathieu, head of its Quebec chapter, said 260 people have been given shelter services, either at a community centre or in hotels.

Others are living with family and friends.

"We're working with the city trying to find apartments so they could move from a hotel to an apartment," he said.

"The city is telling us that there is capacity. The main problem is apartment price, which is the reason why we'll be providing financial support to help pay the rent."

Pascal Mathieu, vice-president of the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Red Cross, says work is underway to find more permanent homes for people displaced by the tornadoes. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The assistance will cover the difference between old and new rent for the remaining term of a displaced person's lease, Mathieu said.

The Red Cross is also providing stipends for clothing and food. 

Mathieu said the organization will be working to provide some financial aid so people who don't have insurance can replace some of their lost belongings.

The amount of aid and when it might be distributed has not been determined.

More than two hundred buildings in the city's Mont-Bleu neighbourhood were hit and many of those tenants did not have renter's insurance. We talk to the councillor of l'Orée-du-Parc Isabelle Miron. 10:52

With files from Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco and Katie Simpson