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Evacuees in Penetang building collapse face long wait to return

'By helping them with basic needs, it allows them to see the hope and love through the community," says local Salvation Army official

Residents of the evacuated Penetanguishene Main Street block will continue to be displaced for at least three more weeks, according to a statement from the town.

Two walls of 78 Main St. collapsed at 3 a.m. on Sept. 7. While no one was seriously injured, 35 residents in the apartments of the building had to evacuate and first- floor business owners have not been able to open or even get into the building.

“This is a very unfortunate situation but the primary goal is to protect people and put the safety of our community first,” said Mayor Doug Rawson in the statement.

“We know this has a big impact on residents and businesses, and this decision has not been made lightly. We’re working with the County and area partners to ensure that displaced tenants have stable housing solutions in the short term and our economic development team will be reaching out to impacted business to see how we can further support them through this tumultuous period.”

The collapsed portion was carefully removed last week in an effort to maintain the integrity of the rest of the structure.

Richard Renaud, director of emergency services and fire chief for the towns of Penetanguishene and Midland said work continues.

"We are still in the shoring stages of the investigation," said Renaud. "Once we have the remaining parts of the building shored, the investigators can then move on to the next stage. The cause and origin portion of the investigation can only be done once the building is safe."

Some of the displaced residents have moved in with friends and family. Others were put up at the Super 8 in Midland, sponsored by the County of Simcoe through The Guesthouse in Midland and assisted by Empower Simcoe.

Midland Salvation Army Pastor Aimee Thomas said the agency has been supporting 35 adults, youth and children by providing vouchers for the Salvation Army Thrift Shop, food, while also offering emotional and spiritual help and wellness checks.

"We are providing love and hope because they are going through a tough time right now," said Thomas. "By helping them with basic needs, it allows them to see the hope and love through the community."

Residents were forced to flee with little belongings, so most of them now need warmer clothing and shoes.

"Some left in flip flops," Thomas said.

Anyone who would like to assist is welcome to contact the Midland Salvation Army at 705-526-5683. Thomas has a list of specific items that people need.

Generally, they need items like crock pots and air fryers and foods that can be microwaved as well as gift cards for local grocery/department stores and pet stores. Items can be dropped off at 555 Dominion St.

“I want to thank everyone involved in the response and our community for their support and generosity," said Rawson. "Partners are working extremely hard to ensure that temporary housing needs of those who are displaced are met.” 

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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