6 months after the floods, many Merritt mobile home residents still face an uncertain future

·3 min read
Cherylle Douglas pictured near her mobile home in Merritt, B.C., near the Coldwater River. She says her home is condemned by the flood damage it sustained last November. (Brady Strachan/CBC - image credit)
Cherylle Douglas pictured near her mobile home in Merritt, B.C., near the Coldwater River. She says her home is condemned by the flood damage it sustained last November. (Brady Strachan/CBC - image credit)

In November 2022, historic flooding devastated communities in the interior and Fraser Valley regions of British Columbia.

To mark the six-month anniversaryCBC held a special live broadcast in Abbotsford to share the stories of people still trying to rebuild. This story is part of our series, "Six Months Later."

Cherylle Douglas returned to her mobile home park in Merritt, B.C., several months after it was hit by floods from the nearby Coldwater River, but she says the homecoming wasn't all that sweet.

Douglas is living in a trailer right next to her old mobile home, which is condemned because of the amount of flood damage it sustained last November. She isn't sure whether floodwaters will once again devastate her neighbourhood.

"Technically, I'm homeless," she said, adding that thieves have broken into her trailer several times, but she hasn't been able to live in a motel because the rooms are fully booked.

A couple of weeks after more than 7,000 residents in Merritt were ordered to leave their homes due to floods on Nov. 15, 2021, the city released a three-phase Return Home Plan outlining when they could return and what services would be available once they did.

In an attempt to reduce flood risk in Merritt, the province announced funding of $329,000 earlier this month to allow the city to update flood-hazard mapping and develop new flood-mitigation plans.

WATCH | Mobile home residents in Merritt discuss the uncertainty they're living with:

But Douglas says her mobile home doesn't have heating and electricity back yet, and she fears the results of the flood-hazard mapping may deem her neighbourhood unlivable, meaning she and her neighbours will have to move out of their mobile homes permanently.

Douglas says she has little trust in the municipal government.

"This city has not helped us at all — it hurts big time because I've got to lose everything."

'Left in limbo'

Her neighbour Chris Kurik has been living in a local hotel for five months. He is slowly repairing the water damage and restoring electricity to his house but says he isn't sure what the future of the community looks like.

"We're left in limbo — and it's aggravating."

Brady Strachan/CBC
Brady Strachan/CBC

Chief administrative officer Sean Smith says the City of Merritt is currently running through several different scenarios in its flood-hazard mapping study and aims to release the results to the public in June.

Smith admits the challenges some residents have been experiencing trying to return to their flood-damaged homes and he says the city has received $12 million in provincial funding to build permanent housing — including innovative 3D-printed homes — to accommodate these residents.

"We're eager to be a pilot and see if this might be a viable model, while also providing much-needed housing for our residents," he said.

Submitted/Twente Additive Manufacturing
Submitted/Twente Additive Manufacturing

Mayor Linda Brown says she hears the frustration of residents who feel they aren't able to return home, not only because of how the city has been performing its disaster relief, but also because of the uncertainties surrounding the flood-hazard mapping study.

"We feel for them — it's heartbreaking to watch somebody not understand what the process is, but there's a process, and we have to understand what the right thing is for the future.

"There's not much we can do about it until the study gets done."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting