Displaced Wheatley residents say provincial program denying funding

Residents displaced by a summer explosion in Wheatley say they are being denied funding put in place by the province to help them with the costs of living while they are living away from their homes.

Provincial funding makes deductions for money residents have received from insurance and the municipality

The site of the Wheatley explosion in December of 2021. Nearby residents and businesses haven't been able to return since the blast last summer. (Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

Residents displaced by a summer explosion in Wheatley say they are being denied funding put in place by the province to help them with the costs of living while they are living away from their homes.

"We're getting screwed," displaced resident Lee Penfold said. "They aren't treating the evacuees properly."

In November, the province announced $3.8 million to assist residents affected by the explosion. Residents are able to receive $4,000 per month for temporary housing for families and residents who plan to return to their houses when possible, and $8,000 for residents who don't plan on returning. The deadline to apply for the funding is Monday, Jan. 31. 

Immediately following the Aug. 26 explosion, Penfold explained that he got money from insurance that covered him for 30 days after the explosion, which he used for living expenses. He also received money for emergency clothing and incidentals for him and his wife. He said that the province deducted those costs from the rent they are supposed to be getting for December and January which left them with $100 to cover a $3,000 AirBnb bill for those months. 

Lee Penfold and his wife have been displaced from their home of 55 years since the explosion happened in late August. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"The way they have their program set up is completely wrong and they should reconsider their guidelines," Penfold said.

"Why should I be out of pocket, when not any of this is my fault," Penfold said.

CBC has spoken with several other displaced residents who say they are experiencing similar issues with the provincial funding. 

Difficult to navigate

April Rietdyk, Chatham Kent's general manager of community human services, said that the program is bound by rules and regulations received through cabinet approval.

"We can say that, but it doesn't make it any easier for residents to navigate through this type of program," she said.

But she added that the the municipality is in talks with the province right now in an effort to rejig the funding. 

"We're trying to kind of see if there is any way to look at kind of a different formula," Rietdyk said. "I don't know if there will be or not."

Rietdyk said that the provincial program was never meant to replace insurance but that the municipality will step in and help any family who finds that their accommodations are in jeopardy.

April Rietdyk is Chatham Kent's General Manager of Community Human Services (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"We are making sure that nobody becomes un-housed," she said. "We have a number of families that we are assisting with accommodations."

She said that the municipality will continue to assist people with housing and necessities until they are able to return to their homes. 

"People are really struggling, it's really hard when you have to leave with the clothing that is on your back when it was probably 30 degrees out that day," she added. "They've had to endure a whole lot." 

In a written statement, the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry said that it is working to address concerns they've heard from the municipality "to ensure residents and businesses are receiving the support they need."


Jacob Barker


Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.


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