Some Ottawa residents displaced by a Canada Day fire say they're facing homelessness as their city-funded emergency hotel stay is coming to an end.
Long-time roommates Julie Pilon, 55, and Pierre Shank, 61, lost their one-bedroom Vanier apartment when a fire broke out July 1.
One man died, and at least 18 other people were displaced by the fire, which is still being investigated by the Ottawa Police Service's arson unit.
"I lost everything. I lost all my stuff that both of us had worked many years to pay for," said Pilon.
"[I'm] feeling very overwhelmed," added Shank. "[The city gave] us a deadline to leave, and to be out on the streets, and to use the shelters," he said.
Before the fire, the pair was scraping enough money together each month to pay the $1,100 rent for the one-bedroom apartment, which they shared with their three cats.
They were getting by, but the July fire changed everything.
No affordable rents
In its aftermath, the Red Cross put the pair and their cats up in a hotel on Innes Road. The City of Ottawa has helped pay for that stay for the past two months, but Pilon and Shank have now been told they need to find somewhere else to live.
In a statement, the city said that generally, people are provided help for 30 days if they're displaced, at which time they will be offered services at a community shelter if they don't have other options.
Pilon and Shank said neither one of them have family support, and both struggle to make ends meet.
Pilon is also fighting cancer and receives Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits, while Shank is on medical leave from his job as a security guard.
"I can't understand. There's no rents that are affordable, and that just puts stress on us," said Shank.
The roommates said they've been unable to find anything they can afford, and landlords have been refusing to rent to them once they find out Pilon is on ODSP.
Pilon said she's never been on the streets before and has never had to live at a shelter.
"I'm terrified, I don't think I'll survive," she said.
Living at the hotel has been challenging as well: they said they've been surviving on sandwiches and microwaveable food, since there's no kitchen or hot plate.
A third resident displaced by the Vanier fire has also been living at the same hotel for two months.
Louise Rossley, who is legally blind, said she's also been told by the city she needs to find somewhere else to live.
"I have no place to go," said Rossley.
In a statement, the city confirmed it has been offering placement services for those who'd lived in the Vanier apartment building.
"Regrettably, these households will not be able to return to their units. As a condition of eligibility for family shelter placement, households must agree to, and be actively engaged in, a housing search," said Shelley VanBuskirk, director of housing services with the city.
The statement also said people cannot wait in emergency housing locations like hotels until they get offers for more affordable housing because of "ongoing capacity within the shelter system for new households with children who may require our services."
The city also said it is helping Pilon and Shank to find accommodations that are within their budget.
"At this time, the household will continue to be provided placement services while their housing search is underway," the statement said.