It’s been a rough week for residents in James Bay who continue to deal with the aftermath of a deadly fire that tore through their Menzies Street apartment complex last month.
The fire, which occurred on Oct. 25, killed one person and left at least 15 people displaced, including Jason Rempel, who only has a few days to pack and store any salvageable belongings from his apartment.
“There’s a lot of anxiety. It’s been a very challenging week. None of us could have expected that we’d be facing homelessness, but unfortunately now has become a reality,” he said, adding that some of those impacted are seniors and people living with disabilities.
Rempel and his neighbours are currently staying at Chateau Victoria until Friday but any temporary relief provided by Red Cross ends this week.
Rempel said he doesn’t know where they’ll go after that.
“The building that we were living in was very low rent for the city of Victoria. Some people had been in that building for over 20 years. So, trying to find something in the market right now comparable is almost impossible,” he said.
Some members of the local community have come together to help, raising money through GoFundMe pages.
“I feel so grateful and fortunate for all the support we’ve received so far. Anything helps,” said Rempel.
Diana Gibson, the executive director of the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria said this isn’t a permanent solution.
“You know, it’s great to see the community come together to help individuals in crisis, but really, as a country, Canada has always prided itself on taking care of its citizens and we shouldn’t be in a position where citizens don’t have options and are forced to go to crowd-sourcing on the internet,” she explained.
She said all levels of government must intervene and make housing affordable, especially with the cost of living increasing.
According to a new report by the Living Wage for Families Campaign, the living wage for families in Victoria has jumped to $20.46 an hour from $19.39 in 2019.
“Many tenants that are currently in rental units are scared to raise concerns around the conditions because the market is so tight and they’re so vulnerable,” Gibson said, adding that this leads to sub-standard housing that is more susceptible to dangers, such as fires.