‘I felt the need to do something:’ Community steps up to help Overbrook fire victims
When Persia Terrones lost everything she owned after a fire engulfed her building last month, she felt compelled to help her neighbours.
Terrones is one of 53 people left homeless after a massive fire at the building at 240 Presland Road in Overbrook on Feb. 21.
“I knew I was going to be okay, eventually, even though it was a hardship for me. But I knew some of my neighbours would not,” Terrones said.
The affordable housing building has been deemed unsafe and residents have not been allowed back inside. A 31-year-old woman has been charged with attempted murder and arson in relation to the fire.
“It is wrong what happened, and so I felt the need to do something to help my neighbours,” Terrones says. She got in touch with members of the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa who started to spread the word in the community for donations and support.
Mary Ella Keblusek is with the congregation, located on Cleary Avenue in Westboro.
“Our church is located quite a long way from Presland Drive, but our congregates are all over the city.” Keblusek said. And they were eager to help displaced residents.
“We all felt a sense of ‘Wow – what could we do to help!?'”
Terrones says there are gaps in support for displaced residents, including access to food. Many are still staying in hotel awaiting temporary housing and do not have access to a kitchen. Terrones says most residents lost all their clothes and personal belongings.
The Salvation Army was there to support residents in the immediate days after the fire, providing food and emotional spiritual support. But a spokesperson told CTV News they are currently “not doing any support. We only go when dispatched/asked by the city of Ottawa.”
A statement attributed to Kale Brown, the city’s manager of homelessness Programs and Shelters, the city is supporting residents in “need of stable housing, including to residents displaced by the recent fire at 240 Presland Road. These continuing supports include personalized assistance with Housing Registry applications and assistance for individuals applying for housing allowances.”
The city says displaced residents in need of emergency or crisis services can access 24-hour help at the Carling Family Shelter.
Terrones says other community groups and individuals have stepped up to help. The Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre on St. Laurent Boulevard provide a space to house the donations and for volunteers to sort and distribute.
In addition to the Unitarian Congregation, Terrones says donations have poured in for across the region. Mark’s Work Wear donated 16 boxes of work wear and outdoor coats.
“But for the most part it was all individuals and community based. We had people coming from Petawawa, Manotick, Leeds, drove all the way in to give us cash that their church has collected or donations. It has been overwhelming,” she said.
George Mullins is another displaced resident who came to the community centre to pick up items such as a house coat and socks.
He says without the help of his neighbours he would be “still struggling… looking around, hoping for the best.”
“People that donate, thank you very much,” Mullins said. “If I was in the same spot, I would try to do the same.”
HOW TO HELP
Residents displaced by the Presland Road fire, they can contact Terrones at email@example.com to get connected with support.
For residents wishing to help those affected by the fire, you can visit this Canada Helps page to make donations. Please select Fund 10- Presland Road Fire Victims.
Gift Cards including for groceries, restaurants, fast food, or Wal-Mart can be sent to:
First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, 30 Cleary Road, Ottawa ON K2A 4A1
E-cards can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org attention Jen
For both mail and email, make sure it says these are for the Presland Road Fire victims.
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