I don’t know her name. Have never met her. Don’t know what suite was hers at Washington Court, but still her story breaks my heart.
I only know a little of her story because my daughter, Alexis who also lived at Washington Court with her husband and 8-month old son, was home when the fire broke out at 9:30 am on Thursday, Oct 4th.
She ran from the building with her son in her arms and stood together with her neighbour on the sidewalk outside, listening to the loud roar of the sirens as firetruck after firetruck arrived to put out the four alarm fire.
They didn’t talk much. to speak in the face of so much unknown and fear was not easy. And so they stood together with their neighbours, watching and praying and hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as it was.
But it was. Bad. Worse even then they imagined.
On the Friday night after the October 4th fire destroyed so many homes, the owner’s representative held a townhall meeting of all tenants in the 44 unit building.
“The building is uninhabitable,” he told them. “As of right now you are all evicted. You’ll have to find somewhere else to live.”
For this woman of 80 some years of age, the information was inconceivable. Confused, she put up her hand and asked, “But I’ll be able to go back to my apartment won’t I?”
When Alexis saw her face crumble at the representative’s negative response she told me she felt her heart break.
I understand. Thinking of that woman brings tears to my eyes even as I write.
On Monday Alexis called me crying. “I am so angry and frustrated,” she said. “And sad. I just found out that woman has been living in a homeless shelter on East Hastings.”
That is not a good thing. Not a good area of Vancouver for an older woman who for thirty years lived in the same suite, in the same building, in the same neighbourhood, walked the same streets to go to the same grocery store and drycleaners, flower shop and more.
E. Hastings is a challenging address. Not a place to call home.
Alexis got to work. She called a friend who is on the advisory council for the GoFundMe campaign they have organized for tenants who need assistance and her friend L. got to work. Within a couple of hours they’d located the woman’s case manager and are now in contact to offer the woman what assistance they can.
Over the past 12 days Alexis and her team have been contacting media, movers, dry-cleaners, storage companies, anyone they can think of, to ask for help. Are they willing to give them discounts? Help move? Provide packing materials?
They’ve fielded countless calls from people offering clothing, furniture, whatever support they can, and they’ve listened as their neighbours cried and told them of their losses, shared their fears and sadness. They’ve helped them face the abyss with care and compassion.
It has been a daunting task. And still Alexis and her team keep reaching out, keep trying to do whatever they can to support those who lost everything in the fire.
To say I am impressed by my daughter is an understatement. I am in awe.
So many people have reached out to offer help, financial and other resources.
And still, it’s not enough.
The fire is out. The damage is being assessed. The cause not yet officially released. 10 units were completely destroyed. 44 units uninhabitable. Over 80 people displaced.
Lives move on. Rebuilding starts. My daughter and family have found a new place to live beginning next month. Others, who have the resources and resiliency necessary to undertake such a task in such dire circumstances, have done the same.
Financial assistance is vital for those more vulnerable to such a crisis. One dollar goes a long way, five more and so on.
And this is where you come in. Not to donate money (though that would be lovely). What the Thurlow Street Fire Relief GoFundMe Campaign needs is more awareness. More sharing.
It only takes a moment but if you would please share on all your social media platforms you will be making a big difference. You can click on the link above and share, or the photo below. Both will take you to the page. Wouldn’t it be amazing to get the shares up to 500 this week? What a difference we could make!
The Thurlow Street Fire Relief GoFundMe Campaign needs all of us.
Thank you for taking a moment to make a difference in a stranger’s life. We may all be strangers but our stories connect us, our humanity binds us to one another and when we support one another in whatever way we can, we are stronger together.