Homeless for the holidays

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By Brad Whitehouse
Associate News Editor

More than seven weeks after an apartment fire at 200 Wellesley St. E., Khadija Boulaftali still hasn’t been able to return home.

“All of us are hoping that maybe by December we will be able to move back in,” said BouLaftali, who is enrolled in the International Midwifery Pre-registration Program (IMPP) at the Chang School.

Her apartment was on the seventeenth floor of the building’s north tower, almost directly below the fire which broke out on the twenty-fourth floor. Most residents of the south tower returned home within 10 days of the fire, said Mitzie Hunter, chief administrative officer of Toronto Community Housing. But north tower residents and those on the twenty-fourth floor of the south tower are still waiting to hear when they can move back in.

This means that about 600 people are still out of a home, Hunter said at a press conference outside the building Friday.

“It could be up to three months before all of the tenants move in,” she said.

When the Eyeopener last spoke to Boulaftali, she was living with some friends uptown. She had trouble finding a hotel that would let her stay with her cat but she was able to move into a hotel near Church and Gould Streets a couple of weeks ago.

The only thing workers were able to retrieve from her apartment was her laptop. She has had to replace all of her essentials.

“They do retrieve some stuff for you, but they don’t let you actually go in. So I didn’t get that much. I still am basically out with nothing,” she said.

“All my stuff was in my place so I had to buy everything that I need. My clothes, I had to get my cat’s stuff, I had to buy all my shampoos, basically everything that you need for your self. But clothing is the main thing, [like] new shoes.”

Toronto Community Housing and the City of Toronto are covering the costs of hotels for displaced tenants, and are handing out food vouchers and TTC tokens, said Hunter.

She added that $140,000 in cash and $8,000 in gift cards were donated. These donations are being distributed to tenants this week. Each single-bedroom unit will receive $146.

“Every penny of the donations that Torontonians have given will be given to the residents at 200 Wellesley,” Hunter said.

North tower tenants also received a $300 clothing allowance.

Toronto Community Housing said crews are working around the clock to repair damage, but the north tower hasn’t been approved by Toronto Public Health.

They’re in the process of clearing out materials that got wet from battling the fire and reconstruction is underway on a couple of floors, said Hunter.

“The building has taken a number of weeks to dry,” she said.

Hunter said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Photo: Marta Iwanek

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