Community throws holiday party for displaced residents of 650 Parliament Street
Displaced residents felt Torontonians had forgotten about them, Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam says
Displaced residents from 650 Parliament Street in Toronto were back together on Sunday, even if only for a few hours, for a community-organized holiday party.
The residents, who were forced to vacate the downtown highrise after an electrical fire ravaged the building on Aug. 21, turned out in numbers to the Wellesley Community Centre, not only for the meals but the opportunity to spend time together again.
Brenda Reid, one of the displaced residents, said she jumped at the opportunity to volunteer at the party when the appeal went out.
"The most important thing is Christmas spirit, and as many people are now finally leaving the hotels, it's a very emotional experience," she told CBC Toronto.
"So, for me it's to reconnect with those people that I haven't seen in a while … so when the call came out to volunteer, of course I was probably one of the first to put my name down."
Some 1,500 people were affected by the six-alarm fire. Many of the displaced residents have secured temporary housing or shared private accommodation while many others are still waiting.
Organizers say those still waiting include families and individuals unable to obtain any proper housing. Some residents are now living in hotel rooms without kitchens and proper dining spaces.
Reid said it has been a very difficult four months.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride. From Aug. 21 to just before Thanksgiving, I moved four times in different parts of Toronto," she said.
"Then I was able to get the option of staying in a hotel which stabilized me a bit — that was my fifth move and that was on Thanksgiving. Since then it's been still a roller-coaster ride because it's been a lot of mixed messaging and no communication. It's just been horrible."
Palmira Almeida, who lived in the building since 2003, was also among the volunteers today.
"Fabulous, fantastic, it's a good experience," was how she described today's event.
"Everybody was dancing because [there was] nice music and it's so easy when everybody gets together and to help each other," she told CBC Toronto.
Displaced residents feel forgotten
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam said the displaced residents told her they felt Torontonians had forgotten about them.
"Of course their stories were heartbreaking. I asked them what they wanted; they wanted to see their families and community and neighbours and so what we did was organize a party for them and they came out in droves," Wong-Tam told CBC Toronto.
"The response has been fantastic. They were just really quite moved I would say, which made it even more special for us. It was a big community effort."
With files from Haweya Fadal