Some desperate Fort McMurray evacuees are coming to B.C. looking for relief- but at least one man says he’s been left out in the cold.
55-year-old David Lachmanec, who drives a heavy hauler for Syncrude in Fort McMurray, says he flew to Vancouver on a whim, based on unsubstantiated rumours that Vancouver was providing resources for evacuees.
He fled town when the wildfire was closing in on his home to an evacuation centre in Edmonton.
“Things are starting to overflow more people are coming into town. Rumours are starting that Vancouver and B.C. is going to start supporting some of us that are homeless out here. So I jumped on that bandwagon, I jumped on a plane and flew out to Vancouver.”
He says he registered with the Red Cross in Vancouver but was only given a few gift cards.
“Looking back at it I should have never left, there is no doubt about it. It was nice to get out of Edmonton, to get away from everything.”
He’s now stranded, not sure what his next move will be.
In an emailed statement, the Ministry of Social Development says evacuees like Lachmanec do have some options:
* For people arriving in BC who are in immediate financial need, the ministry would provide supports including vouchers for food and clothing, while expediting their application for income assistance. Ministry staff would also connect people with outreach teams to find shelter if needed.
* New arrivals in BC can apply for income assistance immediately, but they must meet the same eligibility requirements as all other clients. Income and disability assistance is an asset and income-tested program.
* For those remaining in Alberta, British Columbia continues to marshal emergency management resources and support to assist neighbouring Albertans who have fled the devastating wildfires.
Lachmanec is not alone. The B.C./Yukon branch of the Canadian Red Cross says around 100 families and individuals fleeing the Fort McMurray disaster have registered at locations across B.C.
Spokesperson Andrew Hopkins says the first step when an exhausted evacuee shows up on their doorstep is a needs assessment.
“We are able to refer them to agencies who can help out with housing. If anybody during that needs assessment does state that they do have an issue with housing, that they don’t have a friend or family member that they can stay within the local BC area we are able to refer them to agencies who can help out.”
He says British Columbians are donating in droves.
More than $60-million has been raised across the country.
The federal government will match donations.
80,000 evacuees have registered with the Red Cross.
Meanwhile, British Columbians looking to help their neighbours have banded together to create a Facebook group, “BC Let’s Help Fort McMurray to collect donations and offer assistance.