'We will be homeless': Apartment fire victims face deadline

Following traumatic hours watching their home burn down in the early morning hours Tuesday, the tenants from 6 Elena Court in Charlottetown are hard up against a deadline to find a new place to live.

The 20-unit building, with about 40 residents, was completely destroyed.

Fire alarms went off in the building about 12:40 a.m. Tuesday. Most of the tenants were asleep.

Honey Thakur, a T3 Transit driver, lived in one of the apartments with his wife Yasmeen, a manager at Subway. They shared the space with Sandeep and Rajveer Kaur, two sisters.

Most residents of the building were asleep when the alarms went off. (Submitted)
Most residents of the building were asleep when the alarms went off. (Submitted)

Thakur said by the time he woke up from the alarms and people banging on his door it was too late to escape through the hallway.

"When I opened the door the fire is come in the apartment. I just closed the door and I broke the window," he said.

'Oh my God … it's my building'

Sandeep Kaur was working a late shift at Taco Boyz, finishing at 12:30 a.m., and was returning home by taxi just as people were getting out.

"I was so scared. From far away I saw the building was burning, but I thought it was another building. But when I came near, oh my God, I saw it's my building," said Kaur.

Residents were not able to recover much from the burned out building. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)
Residents were not able to recover much from the burned out building. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

"I just called my sister. I was not able to think what I should do. She picked up the call and said, 'We are out.'"

Kaur was left with nothing but her Taco Boyz uniform. Yasmeen Thakur said she grabbed their passports on the way out, but saved little else.

"We just saw our home burn down," Yasmeen Thakur said of the place they had all lived for two years.

"We did really hard work to make a home. Because it was an empty apartment, right? We did really hard work to make it home."

A desperate home search

The Red Cross was quickly on the scene of the fire to support the victims.

The displaced residents were transported to a warm place where they could clean up and clothes were provided for those who needed them or cash was provided for them to buy clothes.

They were also offered up to three days accommodation.

The Thakurs and Kaurs had their first night at the Andrew Hall residence at UPEI Tuesday night. They have to be out on Friday morning.

They have been asking everyone they know for help finding a place, and posting on social media.

"We do get responses, but the thing is it's really expensive at the moment. The second thing is the move-in date is 1st of July. Not the middle of the month, right?" said Yasmeen Thakur.

"We don't have any space to go … We will be homeless."

The roommates have immediate challenges. Renting a new place means finding first month's rent and a damage deposit, and they don't know when they will get their damage deposit back from 6 Elena Court.

Plus, they need to bridge to July 1, but can't afford the cost of two weeks at a hotel or B&B.

They did not have tenants' insurance. It was not clear to them that they needed it.

"This is the challenges of newcomers," said Yasmeen Thakur.

"We really don't know what to do and what we should have done to make our lives easier."

A further challenge is the rent on available apartments. They were paying $1,265 a month without utilities for the space at 6 Elena Court, but they are struggling to find that affordable an apartment now.

So far, the cheapest apartment they've been able to find — again, not available until July 1 — is $1,700 a month.