The city of Montreal says it will find social housing for the people left homeless after a fire on lower Mackay St. Friday night.

The five-alarm fire destroyed Manoir Edith, a residence for people with mental health issues. Everyone escaped safely before the building was gutted by flames.

The 42 residents who lost their homes will be split up, causing anxiety for many.

The men and women have been living temporarily in a hotel in Anjou since the blaze.

“I'm happy that everybody is safe and alive. That's the main thing, you know,” said resident Stephan Byczak, adding that still, he and other residents are worried about what lies ahead. “I want to be with them. I don't think it would be a good thing for us to separate.”

“We all had suffered stress and mental illness together and we could relate to each other. A lot of outside people don't understand that,” said resident Taimi Tallieu.

Dorotha Auger, executive director of the Friendship Volunteer Association, said the group, which considers itself a family, will be split up.

“It will be in the next few days, where they will relocated on an individual basis. They won't be together. That will be something else,” said Auger.

Despite support and guidance from a dedicated team of community workers, Auger said she knows it will be a tough transition.

Friendship Volunteer Association, the group caring for the residents, is looking for a short-term solution that will keep some sense of community, such as a space downtown that could serve as a drop-in centre, “so the residents and the members that used to go on a regular basis could have the activities that they used to have,” said Auger. 

While Montreal police investigate to determine the cause of this devastating fire, the Friendship Volunteer Association is looking ahead to the future.

“For the ones that would like to have the same thing, the same kind of life and come back to Manoir Edith, I want to rebuild,” said Auger.

Peter McGill district city councilor Steve Shanahan said the city will support the former residents.

“I'm the vice-president of the urban planning committee, so when Mme. Auger brings her plans to the borough for rebuilding, I'll be waiting for her at the door and i'll get her past those obstacles. We're going to fast-track this for sure,” he said.

Mayor Denis Coderre agrees it's a priority.

“We don't want to let them down. We want to work closely with them,” he said.

To offer assistance or make a donation, call the Friendship Volunteer Association at 514-931-5757 or click here.