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Help sought for seniors evacuated from North Vancouver apartment fire

Dozens of seniors remain out of their homes. Here's how you can help.
Apartment fire credit Pat Bell WEB
District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services members knock down a fire at Silverlynn Apartments in Lynn Valley on May 31, 2022.

Two weeks after the Silverlynn Apartments fire, in which one senior died and dozens were displaced, there is now a way for the community to help evacuees.

The neighbouring Westlynn Baptist Church is now accepting financial donations that will go toward helping the building’s residents get resettled back into their lives.

Of the 34 people still out of their apartments – which will need substantial renovations to deal with fire, smoke and water damage – 14 are staying with friends or family. Three have been put up in a North Vancouver hotel because it is close to other community-based supports they require. The remaining 17 have temporary accommodations in a residence at UBC.

On Monday (June 13) North Shore Emergency Management hosted a meeting for all evacuees along with other service providers assisting in the effort.

Although it has been stressful, the residents have been getting the supports they need, said Emily Dicken, director of North Shore Emergency Management.

“We've heard from the evacuees that they feel safe and cared for and that they really feel like their dignity has remained, which I think is very important,” she said.

It could be up to a year before all damaged apartments are livable again, but NSEM will be working with BC Housing to help find other affordable rentals for the seniors in the shorter term.

More than making sure there is a comfortable place to live and three meals a day, NSEM is also trying to deal with the more complex issues the seniors have, Dicken said, “really understanding that their health and social and emotional needs are met as well,” she said. “Every individual impacted by this event has a unique need that needs a bit of wraparound support.”

It took some time to work out the logistics, but with the help of Silver Harbour Centre and North Shore Community Resources, the Westlynn Baptist Church is now accepting monetary donations to help the residents replace items lost in the fire. The church already has a benevolence fund and experience with the fiduciary legalities of disbursing donated money.

Casey Cleland, a volunteer with the church, said he believes about half the building’s residents will need some help.

“We have a little bit more of a direct intimacy with the residents there,” he said “We have a whole bunch of people within our church. They just want to help people and this is where the church really stands up, because our community right now in this specific area is hurting.”

In time, the church will likely set up an online method for donations but currently, the only way to contribute is to write a cheque to Westlynn Baptist Church, 1341 East 27th St. The cheque should include a memo that the money is for Silverlynn Apartments. Any donations of $25 or more will receive a charitable tax receipt.

Silver Harbour is also working with the North Shore non-profit Shelter to Home to help find gently used home furnishings within a very specific list. That list will be posted on Shelter to Home’s Facebook page.

If anyone has an unused, senior-friendly suite they could rent out at a rate affordable to someone on a fixed income, North Shore Community Resources manager of seniors programming Sue Carabetta can help get them connected at 604-985-7138.

The person who died in the fire was a 73-year-old woman, according to police. The investigation into the blaze remains in the hands of the North Vancouver RCMP, although they do not believe criminality was involved in the woman’s death.

No information about the cause of the fire can be released until the RCMP has handed its investigation back to District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

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