St. Luke's fire a 'crisis' for services for city's vulnerable people
Fire significantly damaged building used for meals, counselling and crisis intervention
A fire Tuesday morning at a Chinatown church where some of the city's most vulnerable people congregate has left those in charge scrambling to find a new home for its services.
"These are early hours in a very significant crisis," said Peter John Hobbs, director general of community ministries with the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa.
Hobbs, speaking to CBC Radio's All in a Day just hours after the the fire at St. Luke's Anglican Church was extinguished, said he found two details especially poignant.
First, that congregants had planned to gather this coming Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of the building and the 150th anniversary of the parish itself, Hobbs said.
"You can imagine that this is a significant loss for a community that has gathered in that sacred space," he said.
Second, that the fire would impact those who frequent the community drop-in centre, St. Luke's Table.
Hundreds of meals handed out weekly
St. Luke's Table provided drop-in services five days a week and has been operating for nearly 40 years.
The program serves people experiencing poverty and illness. Hobbs said the site serves between 80 to 120 breakfasts five days a week, and just as many lunches. It hosts counselling and crisis-intervention programs.
People were gathering for breakfast and morning programming on Tuesday when the fire alarm began to sound, Hobbs said.
The fire department said the fire started in an organ on the first floor and was largely under control by 9:40 a.m. Nobody was trapped or injured.
"There's a significant amount of damage upstairs and quite a bit of water damage in the basement," he said.
For now, St. Luke's Table is closed, but Hobbs said the team still hopes to find other ways to carry on with programming.
"In the meantime, we will continue to deliver services," he said. "We won't be able to use the space that we use, but St. Luke's Table is part of a greater network of community ministries operated by our diocese."
Hobbs said a number of those services could be run out of those sister agencies.