Lyttonites living in hotels don’t know where they will spend Christmas


Emergency housing assistance will be replaced with a payment of $ 1,300 per month as displaced residents move to long-term housing.

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Erik Siwik jokes that he has become a “ward of the state”.


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The Lytton resident fled his home on foot as a massive forest fire destroyed the village on June 30. He took refuge behind a large metal trash can when the RCMP station across the street exploded, then stumbled down a few steps to the community school. He was eventually spotted by first responders, collapsed on a bench near the playground, and was delivered “in the arms of angels” to an assembly station, where volunteers rubbed ice on his burns. while he was waiting for an ambulance.

But Siwik’s heartbreaking journey is far from over.

On Sunday, the government of British Columbia announced a partnership with the Canadian Red Cross to provide $ 1,300 per month per household to meet the interim housing needs of people displaced by wildfires and help them find housing “Long-term” instead of the Emergency Support Services program, which funded hotel rooms. The announcement leaves people like Siwik, who lives at the Sandman Hotel in Abbotsford, unsure of where he will spend Christmas.


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According to the government, the Canadian Red Cross will contact eligible households to assess their needs and discuss “next steps to help meet their temporary housing needs and find longer-term housing solutions.”

What this accommodation will look like will be different depending on the household, but it is unlikely to be a large modular home village, as some had envisioned at the start of the process. A draft recovery plan for the village of Lytton released in late October makes it clear that plans to create temporary modular housing for residents wishing to return lack secured funding and would not be ready until April 2022 at the earliest.

Lytton’s acting executive director Ron Mattiussi said a survey of residents conducted in October to determine what type of interim housing would meet residents’ needs yielded “a lot of unknowns.”


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When asked if they might want temporary accommodation in Lytton before they can move, many responded “I could” or “it depends,” said Mattiussi, who added that he understands people are asking themselves. questions about size, location and rules, such as if he allowed pets.

In response, the village follows two routes to bring people into longer term housing. Some will be supported where they are until they can rebuild or roll back, while a modular housing option is still being explored to answer the ‘do we need and how much’ question.

Mattiussi said it is possible that some rebuilding could begin in the spring if the debris is cleaned up and plans to provide infrastructure, such as health care and a grocery store, remain on track. Insurance companies are ‘ready to go’ and are starting to remove the debris, but the village cannot issue demolition permits until the provincial government signs a heritage permit ensuring that there is a plan for it. culturally sensitive sites.


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Mattiussi supported the government’s decision to end funding for the Emergency Support Service, which typically lasts a week or two while wildfire evacuees are away from their homes, and to expand financial support to the housing through the new program, which will allow people to find something that suits their situation.

Resident care will be more individual-centered, with a new ‘unmet needs’ committee helping to assess each person’s unique needs and relate them to support, whether it be housing, food or medical care, he said.

But resident Judith Urquart said the funding announcement had more questions than answers.

The move from emergency funding to the $ 1,300 allowance “makes it even more vital to have affordable housing for this budget amount,” she said. “What if the price changes and the motels can’t afford the rent of $ 1,300 per month?” “

“The announcement brings big changes in people’s lives.”

  1. The charred remains of Lytton, destroyed by a wildfire on June 30, seen on a media tour on July 9.

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

  2. Dianne Miller (center) with Pierre Queviellon (left) and Stephen James, all displaced by the fire that destroyed Lytton.  The two are staying at the Sandman Hotel in Abbotsford.

    Pressure mounts to find temporary accommodation for residents driven out by the Lytton fire

  3. Structures destroyed by a wildfire are seen in Lytton, British Columbia on Thursday, July 1, 2021.

    Wildfires in British Columbia: Son watched in horror as his parents died in the Lytton fire

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