Months after fire at Sask. seniors housing complex, displaced residents still waiting for word on rebuild

·5 min read
The Carie-Villa in Carievale, Sask., before a fire heavily damaged the building on Jan. 11, 2022. (Google Earth - image credit)
The Carie-Villa in Carievale, Sask., before a fire heavily damaged the building on Jan. 11, 2022. (Google Earth - image credit)

Displaced residents of a social housing building for low income seniors in Carievale, Sask., that was heavily damaged by a fire in January want reassurances it will be rebuilt.

Carievale is a village of approximately 240 people, located about 260 kilometres southeast of Regina in the province's southeastern corner.

No one was injured in the Jan. 11 fire at the Carie-Villa, which is for seniors who can still live independently, but a responding fire department described the aftermath as a "huge loss."

The common area and most of the building's living units were among the areas that received the most damage.

In a letter shared with media outlets, residents asked the provincial government, the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation and the Ministry of Social Services to provide a timeline for their return home.

The letter said the villa board and the Village of Carievale had made multiple attempts to get an update from the housing corporation about the status of the building, but they hadn't received any timelines.

One of the residents, Wylie Dixon, has been staying in a part of the facility that survived the fire after his original unit was damaged.

Dixon said he lost half of his belongings in the fire, including some photos and prized end tables that had belonged to his late wife.

He is related to some of the residents who have been forced to find other homes.

"It's pretty hard on some of these women," he said. "I've got a friend, she's living with her daughter. She's still hurting bad.

"And everybody's wanting to get this thing put together and going, and nobody's doing nothing. I can't understand it."

Dixon is longing for the restoration of the common room that hosted suppers and saw kids from a local church come and sing around Christmas.

"It was really wonderful for those older people," he said. "I'd hate to see it have to go down."

No answers for residents: local housing authority board

The board of the Carievale Housing Authority also wrote a letter to government, saying "it feels that we have been left in the dark" about the fate of the seniors housing building.

"The residents are upset and missing their homes and we the board have no answers for them," its letter said.

The residents moved into the villa for affordable living, while maintaining independence and having a sense of community with peers, it said.

It said many residents can't manoeuvre stairs or maintain a larger home, which is why they chose to live in the housing complex — adding the Carie-Villa provided "perfect living accommodations."

In its letter, the board also acknowledged there were some vacancies, but it expected those suites would be filled up in the future. It said its manager has had two additional inquiries of people wanting to move in since the fire.

In a statement to CBC News, the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation said nine tenants were impacted by the fire, and support was provided to everyone to connect them to other social housing options in the area.

Seven of the impacted tenants who chose to continue accessing social housing were relocated to other vacant housing units in Carievale and surrounding communities, and the other two are residing with family, it said.

Submitted by Kim Taylor
Submitted by Kim Taylor

Kim Taylor, the vice-chair of the local housing authority board, said the displaced residents consider those temporary homes.

"That's not where they want to be. They want to be back with their family," she said. "They consider it a family unit here. They're very close. A lot of them are related."

Taylor said one resident who has been in the villa for 18 years lost all of her possessions in the fire.

"It's very disheartening," she said. "They're having a lot of health issues about it. Can't get back into their home. Lost a lot of stuff that they've had.

"So it's very sad."

She said the fire came after two years of residents being mostly isolated due to the pandemic.

"They stayed in their rooms. They did as little as possible," she said.

"And then they went through the fire. And it's just been horrendous what they've been through."

Submitted by Kim Taylor
Submitted by Kim Taylor

Taylor said the south end of the complex the common area need to be redone, as smoke, fire and water damage was pretty extensive.

There is still a very strong smell of smoke in the hallway just outside Dixon's unit, in the common area and in the south end of the building, she said.

"We've had people already come and want to do the work, but we can't get answers from government," she said.

"It could have already been started and finished. There's no reason for it."

The residents and board have asked that Saskatchewan Housing officials make themselves available to the residents, the community leaders and the local board of directors for an in-person meeting.

The Village of Carievale and the Rural Municipality of Argyle No. 1 also sent letters asking for an update on when renovations at the villa will be started and completed.

Government responds

CBC News asked the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation if the Carie-Villa is going to be rebuilt.

In a statement, its executive director of housing operations Roger Parenteau said the corporation is in the process of working with its insurer and needs to complete that process before determining next steps.

Parenteau said claims of this nature are often complex and can take time to resolve.

He said the plan is to set up a meeting when there is more information to provide.

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