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Cochrane social services needs financial support to help Empire Complex fire victims

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It has been two weeks since a fire at an apartment complex in Timmins displaced more than 100 people.

It has been two weeks since a fire at the Empire Complex in Timmins displaced more than 100 people and the local social services board says it is still working with around 80 former tenants. (File photo/Lydia Chubak/CTV News Northern Ontario)

The Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board (CDSSAB) says it is currently working with around 80 former Empire Complex tenants to help them find housing anywhere they can during a time when the city’s vacancy rate is at its lowest.

Officials with CDSSAB told CTV News that they need all the help they can get.

They are currently supporting about 80 people who are now homeless after the Empire Complex fire and are currently housing them at the Ramada Inn.

“Well, it can't go on long, because as you can imagine, housing that many people in a hotel is quite expensive on a nightly basis,” said CDSSAB CAO Brian Marks.

“I believe after the first 10 days it was, approximately $200,000 and CDSSAB doesn't have that money.”

Marks said that every dollar that gets spent is, is a dollar that we're taking from something else.

“We've had several calls with, our ministry counterparts and we will be submitting a financial ask,” he said.

“We hope that that resonates and they come through.”

Marks explained that when 103 people were impacted all at once – including seniors, people with disabilities and foreign students – it was a humanity crisis that the board could not ignore.

However, Marks said with the city’s vacancy rate at less than two per cent and more than 1,700 on the social housing waiting list, some people may need to consider relocating.

“It's really not our responsibility to find units,” he said.

“It's our responsibility, I think, to support people for them to find units and that includes anywhere in the country. I mean, if they have next of kin anywhere… or if there are vacancies anywhere, you know, we'll do what we can to help people access those units and get to where they can have a place to live because clearly, you know, a hotel or motel room is just not sustainable.”

As for how long CDSSAB will be able to pay for hotel rooms, Marks said told CTV News that is a difficult question to answer and he is uncertain if the organization would be able to do this again.

Marks said he is hopeful that financial relief will come and he also plans to ask corporations for assistance because he said the last thing Timmins needs right now is another 100 people looking for affordable housing.

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