- by Sasha Palmer

My Mom and I are writing this together…..we’ve been waiting a few days to write this, to let some emotions settle in regards to our town’s most recent tragedy. The fire at the Hanover Forum, as well as neighbouring businesses and apartments. It’s been difficult to view social media and read some of the negative posts, comments or opinions about the residents of the building. Thankfully, for the most part it feels as though there has been a lot of compassion shown towards their situation.

We understand generations acknowledge the dwelling as a historic part of our community, where there are many memories and good times had. On the other side of it, more recently, many felt it as an “eyesore” a trap house that housed “ druggies and criminals “. People who would break into your car and home or be featured on our Wanted Wednesdays. From someone struggling’s perspective , this place offered the only affordable housing that would accept Ontario Works money for rent (by direct deposit) and judgement free of criminal records, bad credit or any baggage you may be carrying with you. Many residents and business owners wished for the town to do something about it. Perhaps it was shocking and uncomfortable for people to actually see on a regular basis those struggling, maybe it frightened them, maybe they felt bad, but just wished it would go somewhere else. You know, where they didn’t have to see it.

When my boyfriend and I became homeless, our worker at the Y Housing explained the only affordable place to live would be the Forum. At that point it had a waiting list. We have been told now, that rooms were being rented out at 400.00 a month. Housing :4-8 people per room, some even divided with tarps. Each person paying 400.00. But where else are you going to go? The first room we stayed in did not have a bathroom. We shared with roughly 25 other rooms, no lock on the door either. We finally were upgraded to having our own bathroom.

I guess we are painting this picture, because it’s often so judged by people looking in from the outside. But to understand, to really understand….. it comes from looking out from the inside. I never once felt proud while I lived there. I eventually landed a job at the Casino. I had to lie on forms and to staff, about my address. I’d even decline rides home, so no one knew where I lived.

We’ve stood now a couple times to watch the demolition. We feel actually sick, overwhelmed with anxiety, it’s almost ghostly. Memories of my past. My Mom thankful I wasn’t in the fire. Knowing so many are even more lost and in more chaos than their minds can handle. Fearing the absolute worst for them. Memories of friends that I have lost, that have passed away, all gone to ashes. It’s very overwhelming.

We feel concerned for this entity of people that have succumbed to the aftermath of this situation. We feel there’s no going back, it’s happened but where do we go from here? Is this a Town problem? Is it the owners’s problem? Can we open up a logical conversation about solutions for these members of our community? We understand that some are housed at the P&H Center as well as some local motels. But this is all temporary. They are receiving clothing and food and generous donations. As well as some counselling. But can we have a respectful conversation as to the next big step?

Please we encourage you to share this post, we want your input, help us advocate for a change. Let’s come together and be part of the solution.




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