By Charlie Senack
Residents of a Westboro affordable housing complex are homeless after a pipe bust during this weekend’s frigid temperatures.
Ottawa Salus, who operates the building at Athlone and Scott Street, said 42 tenants have been displaced after a sprinkler pipe burst at around 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
“It was (quickly) shut off but there was approximately five to seven thousand gallons of water that was discharged during that time period,” said Ottawa Salus executive director Mark MacAulay. “It’s (caused) significant water damage that has spread throughout the building.”
The pipe burst on the fourth floor, taking down ceilings, walls, and air ducts below it. Floor tiles are lifting, fire retardant gyprock has been damaged, and the elevator system isn’t working. MacAulay said the water damage has also impacted the building’s electrical system and there are concerns over mold.
While a review of the damage is still ongoing, at least 23 of the units have received extensive damage. Some tenants have been provided accommodation at hotels while others are staying with family, said MacAuley.
Founded in 1977, Ottawa Salus has provided comprehensive and integrated mental health and housing services to clients for nearly 45 years. All the tenants have limited income — most are on ODSP — and many struggle with substance use and mental health challenges.
“It’s quite upsetting for them. This is their home and community,” said MacAulay. “We will ensure they will not be left in the shelter system. We will find a place for them while these repairs are underway.”
Building damages will be covered by insurance, but most of the residents don’t have tenant insurance. They left with just a few bags of belongings, mostly clothing.
MacAulay is hoping the community will step up to support their displaced neighbors as damage is repaired.
“Having people drop stuff off won’t help us at this point because the building is closed,” he said. “The most important thing people can give is a financial contribution to help the tenants transition from temporary housing. Some will also need help with food because they have already stocked their fridges for the month.”
It’s unclear how long the building will remain closed or when repairs will be completed. Insurance appraisers will determine the cost of damage later this week.
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