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4 Lessons from 200 Wellesley Street Fire

September 25, 2010

Last night I went and helped out at the community center where they temporaily housed those displaced after a fire at 200 Wellesley Street here in Toronto. 200 Wellesley Street in one of many large social housing apartment buildings in the area. The residents are a mix of the poorest that live here in Toronto. Many have mental health issues or are seniors. This morning there will be a need for resources for these vunerable residents.

If you live in Toronto first and foremost what will be needed today:

  • diapers for both babies and adults
  • personal grooming items( toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, etc)
  • clothing: (last night I saw basically every size will be needed)
  • baby food and formula

If you live here in the city and can help these vulnerable residents please do. You can drop items at the community center at Wellsley and Sherbourne.

Now to the lessons that I think our city needs to be reminded of:

1. We are still Toronto the Good. Last night I saw people of all walks of life step up to the plate and help in any way they could. Whether it was a bunch from Twitter who were getting out the word of the needs, to two mayoral candidates, an MPP, a city councillor, a few who were running for public office, to the people who simply lived in the neighbourhood all came together to help in any way they could. Those that impressed me most were those who came with absolutely no agenda but to help and help they did.

2. We still need to improve on our emergency response efforts. When it comes to events such as this and there have been many over the years we should be doing better by now and we are NOT. Last night I witnessed many falling through the cracks including this frail senior who had been placed on a bus to be sent to sleep on a cot. There were a number of seniors especially who did not self identify as needing extra help. We needed trained staff on site making sure those most vulnerable were identified. At the end of the night I a simple mom was telling city officials who needed specialized help. That should not of been. Yes I have experience working with the city’s most vulnerable but in an event like this we need to make sure people are not falling through the cracks due to barriers.

3. We have still not learned how to communicate well with residents after an event. All announcements were made in English only and I saw few interpreters who could help those with language barriers. Thank goodness again for volunteers who stepped up in this area.

4. We need a bank of Emergency response volunteers who are trained and who practice regularly how to respond. From what I saw last night there was a lack of coordination at all levels. Thank God for those who were smart enough to self organize and get things done. This could be done so much better.

I am so glad I spent some of my night helping out. Much help though will still be needed today and in the days ahead to assist these residents.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. S.D. permalink
    September 25, 2010 2:08 pm

    Would donations of clean, *used* clothing be accepted/useful?

    We have a bag that was destined for donation to a charity shop anyway, and could be redirected to get to people faster.

  2. Hollie permalink*
    September 25, 2010 2:47 pm

    Yes clean used clothing is great!

  3. Rebeka permalink
    September 25, 2010 4:35 pm

    Thank you so much for helping and letting us know what is needed.

    I got back half an hour ago from dropping off food, toiletries, and three bags of clean used clothing. Although they seemed pleasantly surprised, either City Staff nor Red Cross could figure out what to do with the clothing. Some were afraid people who “don’t need it” would “just take it” — argh! Meanwhile lots of people sitting around the lobby wrapped in blankets looking devastated…

    I ended up leaving the clothing at the main front desk in the lobby, and was told they would give it out if people came forward to ask about it, but they were not organized to offer it or find out who needed it most.

    So now I’m trying to spread the word for people to go to the desk to ask for it. Clothing included small/medium adult men’s & women’s: tops, trousers, pajama pants, socks, scarves/shawls, and a coat.

    I would have stayed to do more myself if I wasn’t dealing with my own disabling health problems, but I really don’t want to risk overtaxing myself, collapsing and becoming an extra burden for anyone there. I am so grateful to see so many other people stepping up to do what I cannot. Thank you.

  4. Maus permalink
    September 26, 2010 10:22 am

    hey is there a number i could reach for the shelter? or one for info?
    my kid brother was on that floor and i can’t reach him…
    He’s called Free and he’s Dutch…
    Very tall skinny white dude with an Asian gf named Mel and 2 kids (1baby)
    msg me pls with any info: or call 0031643225082

  5. Gay Walton permalink
    October 4, 2010 6:20 pm

    I feel that its time for the Volunteers or TCHC staff to help the blind people that are getting back in to their apartments at 200 Wellesley. I do not see the point of expecting a totally blind person to do this by themselves. I believe that a sighted person who is a friend and has known a blind person living there for sometime, should be able to help that person to resettle into their home. It is important to make life a little easier for people with disabilities.

  6. Steve permalink
    January 7, 2011 2:44 pm

    When this first happened my nurse was away, when I spoke with her on the phone she kept telling me to break some windows to go to jail over and over again? Well it turns out she was completely right!
    We who are sick went threw hell with these volunteers they would keep giving us the stupidest medical and health advice that I may never recover from! They kept telling me I could drink only juice, as it is better for me than pop or anything else for that matter. This food was all I could eat and drink as I left my apartment with only what I was wearing like the other tenants. It’s January 7 2011 and from what I was forced to eat and drink I am sitting here with a pad under my ass because my ass it still dripping blood and my insides are completely stripped! The volunteers wouldn’t even let me in the refrigerator in the kitchen of the community centre to get the medication I need to live, now my medication is useless because I have built up a resistance to it from the volunteers not letting me have my medication for weeks! Now I am dying from aids because these idiots would not let me in the kitchen!
    I am just one sick person at 200 Wellesley but I am not the only one still having problems because of how these volunteers forced us to live. Next time Hollie just hand out some hammers, baseball bats and large rocks so we can break some windows and get better health care in jail, all you did was treat us like shit and then slowly kill us!

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