The community in and around Châteauguay, Que., has donated dozens of bags of clothing, toiletries and food to support the 35 families who lost their homes in a fire that tore through an affordable housing complex on Thursday.
Jimmy Moran Jr., one of the residents whose apartment went up in smoke when the blaze gutted the building on St-Hubert street, says he lost everything in the fire, including his cat.
But the support he has so far received from the residents of Châteauguay and nearby Kahnawà:ke has given him a welcome boost and at least access to food, new clothes and shoes to replace some of what he lost.
"I feel blessed," he said. "It's a blessing that people are really nice living here."
Jimmy Moran Jr., one of the residents who lost everything in the fire, says he is grateful for the community donations. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)
Residents have been dropping off bags of clothing and other supplies at several locations in Châteauguay, including at the local ice cream parlour and at a community centre.
At the ice cream parlour, volunteers like Cindy Boulanger are sorting the material and ensuring it reaches the displaced families.
It's a big job; there are dozens of donations.
"I'm overwhelmed honestly with the community response," Boulanger said. "It's just amazing to see people come together in our community to help out."
Audrey Rice, from neighbouring Kahnawà:ke, said when she heard about the fire she grabbed whatever clothes she could spare and drove to Châteauguay to donate them. She also bought items, including toothbrushes, shampoo and other toiletries.
A fire gutted much of a building on St-Hubert Street in Châteauguay, Que., seen here on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023, one day after the fire. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)
"It's sad," she said. "People lose everything. Their whole lives are in that home and now they have to start from the beginning with nothing."
Local restaurants contributed, donating food to the hotel where many of the affected families are being housed by the Red Cross.
The Red Cross will house them for 72 hours, but after that, they will have to find new homes.
That won't be easy.
"I was astonished at how unlucky people are," said François Giguère, the director-general of SOLIDES, the local non-profit that owned the building that burned.
"This is happening at the worst possible moment, when it's incredibly difficult to find apartments and almost impossible to find anything affordable."
Even with help from other affordable housing organizations in the surrounding area, it will not be possible to find homes for all of the 35 families who lost their affordable apartments in the fire, Giguère said.
"These families are facing an incredibly dire situation," he said.