Latoya Wiks is making life as normal as possible for her five kids, but having everyone share one crowded room is stressful. Pictured with baby Tobias and three-year-old Novah. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Latoya Wiks is making life as normal as possible for her five kids, but having everyone share one crowded room is stressful. Pictured with baby Tobias and three-year-old Novah. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Housing shortage showing its teeth after North Island apartment fire

The suspicious January fire dispossessed 15 families in Port Hardy

Two weeks after a fire ripped through an apartment in Port Hardy, the six families still looking for new homes are drawing attention to the housing shortage on the North Island.

Residents fled from smoke and flames late on Jan. 17, some dropping out of windows in their panic in the middle of the night. The hallway was destroyed, and suites have varying levels of smoke and water damage. Some first-floor apartments are almost cleared for re-entry, but most tenants of the 15-unit building need new homes.

Latoya Wiks lived on the ground floor with her partner, James Charlie, and their five young children. She was recovering from a cesarean section three weeks earlier when their youngest son Tobias was born. When the alarm went off, Charlie went to check if it was a real fire and not a prank. He heard someone yelling, “It’s real, it’s real, there’s a fire!”

He ran to wake the kids, groggy with sleep, while Wiks gathered things for the baby. Wiks threw the dog on the stroller and handed the guinea pig to her oldest daughter. They went through the now familiar drill of making sure everyone had jackets and shoes.

“As soon as we got outside, boom, we see someone drop. I’m freaking out, my kids are screaming.”

Another person was lying in the wet grass with a broken leg.

“My three-year-old was just screaming and shaking, his eyes were huge.”

The family of seven has been living in a two-bed hotel room since the fire, grateful for the help from Emergency B.C., but not sure how long it will last. So far they’ve had no luck finding a new home.

Selenia in her nook under the “kitchen table.” Normal food and school snacks have been one of the biggest challenges in living at a hotel, Laytoya Wiks said. (Zoe Ducklow photo)


RELATED: ‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months

There’s scant availability in Port Hardy on a good day, never mind when a dozen families are looking at the same time.

Three-and-a-half years ago, a fire at Creekside Apartments displaced 65 people, who struggled for months to find stable homes. In ironic timing, Creekside re-opened for tenants days before the fire at Town Park. The new owners say they received 200 applications for the 23 spaces.

Charlie, a member of Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw, has applied for housing on the Tsulquate reserve, but the list of applicants ahead of them is about 25 families long, the band housing administrator said. The Tsulquate reserve there are two transition houses for emergency situations, but they’re both occupied right now.

It’s frustrating for Wiks, who’s Kwakiutl, that even in an emergency neither band have been able to help house their family.

“I was crying, practically begging them, like please, this is embarrassing, we’re living in a hotel after a fire.”

Five-week-old Tobias is lost in his dad’s gaze. (Zoe Ducklow photo)


RELATED: Dog needs surgery after apartment fire injury

On top of finding a new home, they’ll have to replace much of their furniture. Anything porous, like beds, couches, desks, chairs and even toys, have been ruined by chemicals in the smoke, they’ve been told.

Four-year-old Selenia describes in detail a toy playpen and stroller for her dolls that she got for Christmas. It’s one of the things ruined in the fire. The kids have been given new toys, which they’re all grateful for, but they still keep asking when they can go home.

The seven of them have made life in the hotel room as normal as possible. Wiks established a separate nook for each of their clothes, and a box for small toys. Eight-year-old Lila and six-year-old Lazarus are still in school as Selenia sets up her toys under a side table that serves as a kitchen counter. She fits cozily in the cranny.

Novah, who just turned three, has made himself and his toys at home. The three-inch ledge atop the bed frames are home to small dinosaurs — “doh-do-dos” — and action figures, precisely stationed.

Baby Tobias is healthy and happy, gazing fixedly into his dad’s eyes, unaware that anything’s amiss.

The Charlie-Wiks’ have made life in the hotel as normal as possible, but it’s stressful to say the least. Their oldest child was still at school when this photo was taken. Left to right: Lazarus (6), James Charlie, Novah (3), Selenia (4), Latoya Wiks and Tobias (five weeks). (Zoe Ducklow photo))


Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Fire evacuationHousing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Low interest rates have acted as a catalyst for the pandemic real estate market. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Real estate sales surging across Greater Victoria but risks lie ahead

Single family home prices jump nine per cent over past year while condo values remain stable

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

One person is dead after a camper van caught fire Thursday morning in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
UPDATED: One person dead after vehicle fire in Beacon Hill Park

Investigation into Victoria death in early stages

Darcy Rhodes (left) says his grandfather’s bonsai trees are his ‘babies.’ (Courtesy of Tamara Bond)
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

Some Canadians are finding butter harder than usual, resulting in an avalanche of social media controversy around #buttergate. (Brett Williams/The Observer)
#Buttergate: Concerns around hard butter hit small B.C. towns and beyond

Canadians find their butter was getting harder, blame palm oil in part one of this series

Most Read