Jeff Smith is a 58 year old Tow Truck Driver/Welder/Mechanic who has worked (hard) all of his life.
He is currently working as a Courier, desperately (and figuratively) trying to keep his head above water.
If only his problems could have receded with the water line. In reality, they’ve only just begun.
Jeff and his wife Christine are now essentially homeless; wearing out their welcome on Jeff’s brothers couch in Constance Bay.
They are paying for a home they are no longer allowed to live in, and they are trying to stay as positive as they can after the loss of their 2nd home inside 16 years.
The first was in 2001 and due to a fire, so they were insured.
The second, also in Constance Bay, was taken by the Ottawa River floodwaters in May.
The waters of the Ottawa rose 8 feet and came right up to their door knob while it gushed up from underneath their sandy property.
The engineers have deemed it unfit to live in, structurally unsound, and hydro has cut off service.
It’s a nightmare. They are running out of options and every question either remains unanswered or only presents them with ‘more questions than answers.’
Jeff, who is usually an upbeat character and is known for his skill in re-building cars (one that he made for me, good for a 2nd Place Finish in a Demo Derby at the Glouchester Fair) admits that at this point “we are just trying to survive.’
Why wasn’t he insured? Answer is, because no one can get insurance on a flood plain. He tried to obtain it.
Why was his house more suspect than some of his neighbours?
That is how they bought it, and conservation authorities disallow large alterations and grade changes.
When will the house be demolished? Neighbours would like to know as its attracting animals.
Can he get Provincial assistance, can he re-build? He simply doesn’t know. He’s made countless calls, and no one seems to want to help. Many are not returning his phone calls.
Three other residents of Constance Bay also face the same conundrum and the same frustrating questions.
Here they are paying for a home they cannot live in. All of them, no doubt, would like to rebuild their lives.
Their homes aren’t worth anything, the grades can’t be changed because of the conservation rules, and how on earth are they all going to pull it all off?
I talked to Jeff this week and I promised that we would do our best to help cajole the authorities to guide him and shed some light on some of these problems that some of our fellow Ottawa residents are facing.
Many have dreamed their whole lives of living in a tight bucolic beach community like Constance Bay, and never imagined a flood would wipe them out.
One can probably assume that every resident of Constance Bay understands the risk (unobtainable insurance) but apparently the 2,500 residents of the Bay are willing to chance it.
The community wouldn’t exist otherwise.
The newer homes are built higher; while the older homes are apparently sitting ducks.
Will people want to take that chance anymore?
Let’s be honest, we never think it will happen to us; but for heaven’s sake, let’s not force these poor people to fight other battles.
They are too tired, displaced and broke to continue like this.
Wasn’t the water enough?
WATCH: Constance Bay resident, Jeff Smith, explains that he’s one step from homelessness.