Six local families will be without a home this Christmas after a flood and fire caused more than $75,000 in damage at Nova Vita Domestic Violence Services’ transitional apartments last week.
An issue with underground piping caused a sewage backup in the lower apartments of the eight-unit building last Wednesday. The flooding damaged many personal items, including wrapped presents waiting under Christmas trees.
While cleanup crews were on the scene on Thursday, black smoke began to billow out of the building’s top floor. A fire had broken out in a top unit after something was left on a lit burner, according to the Brantford Fire Department. Several units were affected by smoke damage.
Many of the affected families don’t have insurance to cover the damage.
“The flood was bad enough and then when the fire happened the clients were coming out visibly upset and crying and the staff was hurting and upset because we know how tough it is for them,” said Michelle Heaslip, community development co-ordinator for Nova Vita.
The transitional apartments are for families who have moved out of the Nova Vita shelter but, due to security or safety issues, aren’t ready to live on their own.
“When they come to us they have already been through something that is traumatic and hard for them and then they have time for healing and get settled and have this happen,” Heaslip said. “For those who own their own homes, having a flood or fire that wrecks personal belongings is hard enough, but these women are already in a vulnerable state.”
Since the incidents, the families have been housed in Nova Vita’s emergency residential shelter, with one family sent to a hotel after the shelter reached capacity.
With the shelter full, that means Nova Vita doesn’t have room to take in new clients in need of victims services. Those people will be put up in a hotel until there is space.
“It costs,” Heaslip said. “We have to support the transitional units, so there’s not going to be income from those units while they are being restored.”
The Brantford Fire department estimates $75,000 worth of damage from fire and smoke due to last week’s blaze. A damage estimate from the flood is not yet available, Heaslip said.
Cleaning crews are working through the apartments and some families may be able to return as early as next week.
Nova Vita is accepting monetary donations and gift cards to help the affected families, as well as used clothing and toys for its shelter. Visit www.novavita.org for more information.