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School boards fundraising for over 50 students left displaced by North York fire

Last Updated Nov 22, 2019 at 6:21 pm EDT

The community is rallying around over 50 students displaced by a fatal fire at a North York apartment building last week.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) have launched separate fundraising pages to help families affected by the five-alarm blaze.

There are 22 students from TDSB impacted by the fire while 15 families, including over 30 TCDSB students, were displaced.

All the proceeds will be going towards clothing, food, and other essential items.

The blaze at 235 Gosford Boulevard has left hundreds of people displaced and awaiting answers on when they may be able to return home.

“We’re hearing stories where they basically have nothing left, there’s just ash,” said Ida Li Preti, ward 3 trustee with the TCDSB. “It’s devastating.”

Julia and Daniela Viana, 22-year-old twin sisters who lived with their mother and eight-year-old brother in the building, are still grappling with being forced from their home where they have lived for the past decade.

“To be homeless is a difficult feeling,” said Julia. “The things we take for granted, I really appreciate now … we have great support from family and friends,” added Daniela.

Their apartment sustained minimal damage during the fire and they are expected to be allowed to return briefly to collect some of their items.

“Every single thing that you do in your day, they have lost so as a community we have to come together,” said Chris Mammoliti, TDSB Trustee. “We have to support our families and our communities as a united front, it’s how we’re going to be able to make the impact we need to support people who lost everything.”

The school boards don’t have an exact fundraising goal, saying they still need to gauge how the fire has and will continue to impact those who may not be home in time for the holidays.

As of Friday, the City of Toronto states approximately 40 people are staying at the Tate Mackenzie Centre on the York University campus, also adding that 285 have registered with the Red Cross. Though the city states that they have no mechanisms to track how many people have found accommodations, a spokesperson adds that the landlord has estimated between 400 and 450 people are currently displaced.

“The city provides emergency shelter and related support for up to 14 days after an emergency to all residents who require it, regardless of their financial status and whether their residence is publicly or privately owned,” a spokesperson from the City said.

The landlord, Ronkay Property Management Inc has been providing updates on social media, stating that a number of tenants on specific floors will be allowed to return to their units to pick up any belongings. Despite repeated efforts, a spokesperson with the company would not comment on when tenants would be allowed to return.

“No suites have been deemed safe to occupy at this time,” a spokesperson wrote in a brief email to CityNews.

The Ontario Fire Marshall’s office has said it’s believed the fire began in a eighth floor unit bedroom and caused severe damage to several floors and adjacent units. One person was found dead on a balcony during a secondary check of units by firefighters. The victim has not been identified at this point.