Lytton residents call for housing plan, transparency over money pledged and spent

“Everyone tries to pick up the pieces on their own” – Judith Urquhart, Lytton resident.

Content of the article

In late September, Jackie Tegart’s constituency offices began receiving calls from Lytton residents living in hotels.

Advertising

Content of the article

As their emergency funding was due to expire on September 30, some had started packing.

“They didn’t know where they were going,” said Tegart, the Liberal MP for Fraser-Nicola. “They found out two days before the deadline that the funding had been extended. “

As winter approaches, Lytton residents remain scattered across British Columbia, staying with their families or living in hotels. Some wonder why a plan to provide interim housing seems to amount to “a plan to make a plan”. Others believe that the local government is overwhelmed and that the provincial government has not provided enough support.

“The biggest heartache is losing our community,” said Judith Urquhart, a Lytton resident who moved between motels, hotels and Airbnb rentals seven times before recently finding a rental home on the Strip’s reservation. Indian Ashcroft. “Everyone tries to pick up the pieces on their own. “

Advertising

Content of the article

“What if there was no more community to see Lytton rebuilt?” Asked Edith Loring-Kuhanga, a school administrator who divides her time between the Fraser Canyon and Victoria. “I worry about our seniors. I fear that if nothing is done, they will not survive this winter.

The two women said they did not understand why Lytton council asked the provincial government to overturn a by-election in August to fill a vacant council seat as they face the colossal task of rebuilding the village .

At a virtual council meeting on October 13, a delegation of residents asked council why $ 30,000 in gift cards had not yet been distributed.

Dianne Miller (center) with Pierre Queviellon (left) and Stephen James, all displaced by the fire that destroyed Lytton.  In September, two months after the fire, the two were staying at the Sandman Hotel in Abbotsford.
Dianne Miller (center) with Pierre Queviellon (left) and Stephen James, all displaced by the fire that destroyed Lytton. In September, two months after the fire, the two were staying at the Sandman Hotel in Abbotsford. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

While tragic on a personal level, the loss of the community also made rebuilding Lytton more difficult, admitted Ron Mattiussi, deputy general manager of the Village of Lytton. After the Kelowna wildfires in 2003, people who lost their homes were accommodated in the city and City Hall continued to function normally. This has enabled government and nonprofit groups to deliver “wrap around” services in a consistent manner.

Advertising

Content of the article

“Lytton is a very unique and very complex situation,” said Mattiussi. “The city had no registry. It doesn’t seem like a big deal compared to the other losses, but if you don’t have those records it is very difficult to move forward. It was “no small task” for the staff and the board to get back on their feet, especially since many of them had experienced the trauma of losing their homes to the fire.

We apologize, but this video failed to load.

Advertising

Content of the article

Mattiussi, who was only at work for a few hours when he spoke to Postmedia, said residents would start to see things move quickly over the next few weeks as much of the unseen background work is now complete.

The sifting ended Thursday with many residents able to return to Lytton and search for valuables in the ashes of their homes. The water and soil tests are mostly complete, while insurance companies have completed their assessments and are coordinating the cleanup. The province is funding the Fraser Basin Council to work with the village on an interim housing plan, and the council has identified several possible options, ranging from modular homes to purchasing a hotel. After consultation with residents, which will take place over the next few weeks, one option will be retained.

Advertising

Content of the article

“Is this happening as fast as people want it to be?” Said Mattiussi. “No, but I think you will see significant progress soon. “

Main Street, Lytton.
Main Street, Lytton. Photo of JENNIFER GAUTHIER /REUTERS

Rebuilding an entire city was always going to be complicated, but Fraser Canyon MP Brad Vis said the federal election added unnecessary hardship.

“Because Justin Trudeau has yet to take over Parliament after the election, funding for reconstruction efforts has stalled and we have been left in the dark with few federal updates,” said the Tory MP. “These families shouldn’t have to wait another day. “

Vis said he planned to ask the government to approve federal funds for Lytton under the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Quick Housing Initiative, but as the new cabinet was not announced, he waits.

Advertising

Content of the article

Tegart believes the provincial government should have done more to help the village council by providing expertise.

“The province has to be on the ground,” she said. “There was a real lack of communication. I cannot tell you what the provincial government has committed to funding. Lytton has a very small tax base. Where will the money come from?

Mattiussi, who was Kelowna’s city manager during the 2003 wildfires, said the village had insurance to cover infrastructure replacement. Disaster relief funding from the provincial and federal governments typically covers around 80 percent of the costs, but Lytton could potentially need help for the remaining 20 percent, given the “gruesome nature” of what’s happening. has passed.

We apologize, but this video failed to load.

Advertising

Content of the article

The Government of British Columbia funds many positions within the village salvage team, in addition to a ‘re-entry feeder’ that coordinates ash screening, debris removal and infrastructure work. essential.

But as the residents of Lytton begin to feel hopeless, other solutions have started to emerge.

A grassroots group called BC Disaster Relief, which does not yet have charitable status, collects donations to provide trailers and modular homes to people. So far, they have hosted three families and hope to raise $ 100,000 through a community art auction to buy 10 more homes, said founder Adam Smolcic.

“People need a place that is not a hotel, where they can hang pictures and not hear the person stepping upstairs,” he said. “If it were up to us, we would already have everyone in the mobile homes.

Advertising

Content of the article

Lytton residents Joseph Justice and Katrina Sam.
Lytton residents Joseph Justice and Katrina Sam. Photo by Photo Submitted – Katrina Sam /PNG

Katrina Sam and her husband Joseph Justice live in a trailer provided by Smolcic’s group. Justice has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and has to travel to Kamloops regularly for treatment.

“We were so grateful to have a spot,” Sam said.

But the trailer is temporary. In early October, Justice was able to return to the site of his childhood home. Although destroyed by fire, volunteers helped sift through the ashes.

Discovered among the ruins of his house, he recovered his grandfather’s World War II medals.

[email protected]

twitter.com/glendaluymes

Advertising

comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour of moderation before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications. You will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, if there is an update to a comment thread that you follow, or if a user that you follow comments. Visit our Community rules for more information and details on how to adjust your E-mail The settings.

Comments are closed.