It’s been 4 months since the waters of the Ottawa rose six feet, yet the frustration continues for those who were hit the hardest.
Four families are still out of their homes in Constance Bay, and Kara Shaw Plourde is one of them.
Four families still don’t know where they stand with their applications for the “Ontario Disaster Relief Plan” and it’s taking them way too long to get any comprehensive answers.
Right now just 2 of the 4 families even have case numbers from applications for this fund; the delays stemming from a very confusing application process and further confused by the multitude of incorrect information they received from various officials.
Nerves are frayed, tears flow and frustration continues to boil over.
Collectively the group, which has stayed in touch throughout this event, really have no idea what information to even submit.
MPP Jack Maclaren is now trying to clarify the application process — but still many questions remain.
Kara is a single mother of two young daughters (ages 8 and 10) and it’s a day-to-day struggle as she continues to pay for a house they cannot live in.
Believe it or not, the sump pump continues to run out of her flooded home — and there is no choice but to foot the bill for hydro and utilities for that home.
The tab includes: $1,200 a month in rent (plus hydro and gas) for a temporary cottage just two doors down from their condemned family home. This, on top of $1,050 a month in mortgage payments, for a house that is sitting empty growing mold, all the while paying for insurance that will not cover any part of her loss.
It doesn’t seem possible.
Kiersten Plourde, Kara’s 10-year-old daughter, recalls packing her bags and leaving them at the front door, after they were informed her that their house could collapse at any time. The girls slept with Kara in her bedroom at the front of the house, and constantly listened for noises, “I just want my bedroom back”.
Kara adds “I feel defeated! We tried so hard to save our home and it didn’t work. My girls and I lived in a house with massive amounts of mold, while in fear of it collapsing at any time. Now I have rent, mortgage and double bills for who knows how long? I know some have been critical of those knowingly living in a flood zone – that they should have expected what happened but my home was not in the flood zone. The previous homeowner, who lived there for 40 years, didn’t even have a sump pump, nor did they have water in their basement over all those years.”
Kara continues; “I have been speaking with both municipal and provincial officials, who’ve said they will help in anyway they can. We need help, we need answers, and the longer this process takes, the more bills are piling up. Up until now, the help I have received has been through the Volunteers at the Flood Relief. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
Kara joined in the efforts to save Constance Bay as a key volunteer with the Constance Bay Community’s Flood Relief before the flood started to affect her home, which was after the flood waters started to recede.
Constance Bay Flood Relief (CBFR), a group of volunteers who came together to help with the flood, was the keystone for saving much of the community. They not only minimized the effects of the flood by mobilizing thousands of volunteers to protect homes through their sandbagging operations, they also organized volunteers and donors to come together to save over 100 homes that were badly water damaged. Removing water damaged content and building materials, drying out and sanitizing, to ensure mould did not set in to these homes which would have cause further damage and costs. Of the 500 homes that were damaged in May, many were lucky to sustain light damage or had insurance to cover the costs. The rest are hopefully in the hands of the CBFR. They are working with groups of volunteers to repair the damaged homes this fall (CBFR has provided materials to all of these families) and are helping the 4 homeowners who need to rebuild with navigating the rebuild and funding application process.
The community came together, the water rose, they activated volunteers, they gathered equipment and supplies, they offered 24-hour assistance, they had laundry and shower services, and they saw that the volunteers and victims had what they needed, when they needed it.
Ironically, the Flood Relief Organization did such a good job, that the City left them to manage most of the efforts and it most likely played a part in the City of Ottawa not declaring a ‘State of Emergency’ as Gatineau did on the other side of the river.
While they put everyone else before themselves and dug in, on the fly, with a heroic community effort (with the help of some generous businesses especially the likes of Belfor Disaster Recovery) it is now time to make sure they too can rebuild their lives.
Sadly, not unlike Jeff Smith’s story (see previous post) this too is the 2nd home that Kara has lost.
Both previous homes that were lost to fire. And now both have lost their homes to the flood.
While Jeff and Kara were both insured against that first occurrence, both were not covered for the flood. Again a similar refrain, as both Jeff and Kara tried to get Flood Insurance for their Constance Bay homes, but were unable even though Kara isn’t in the Flood Plain.
Heather Lucente CBFR Volunteer Relief Director comments “While we are very excited to have MDS (Mennonite Disaster Services) coming back for September to help our families that need repairs, we are very worried about these 4 families who’s homes have been damaged beyond repair. The funding available for the rebuild of these homes will not come close to covering the rebuild and systems costs (the septic, well and flood mitigation to the land will take a large portion of the funding) let alone replacing lost contents. We have asked the province to look into further funding and are looking to the city to help with reducing some of the burden and costs for these families. If they receive the support they need we should see shovels in the ground early spring. If not these families may loose everything.”
There are so many questions that both the families and the volunteer flood relief team are trying to answer.
* Why do we have our flood victims wondering where to turn?
* Who is there to answer questions?
* Does the Ontario Relief fund have a surplus in funds?
* Where do people go to get answers?
* How do we keep this from happening again?
* What did we learn?
The Constance Bay Flood Relief Team has been here since day one helping the community, but these are just a group of volunteers who have never encountered anything like this before, they are not trained, they are not supported, and they are doing their utmost to help these desperate families.
The big question is – where are the people whose jobs it is to help?