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Fires drive women to temporary homes

Spate of fires leave women homeless

In the past couple of weeks, two fires have destroyed homes that have been a refuge to women.

The first fire broke out at around 10pm Nov 8 at the Cornerstone women’s shelter at 515 Maclaren St in Centretown. One woman, Judith Werner, died in the fire and 19 others were left homeless.

The second fire, Nov 13, blazed through what is thought to be a women’s only rooming house on Nepean St. According to reports on Monday morning, the Ottawa police suspect that foul play was involved.

Both fires are putting pressure on the need for available emergency housing in Ottawa.

Cornerstone has been in Ottawa since 1983 and is run by the Anglican Dioceses of Ottawa. The organization provides different opportunities and a range of services to homeless women in need.

Cornerstone program operates three different residencies. The house at Maclaren St was home to 20 women.

“Many of these women are formerly homeless,” says Bill Prentice, director of parish and diocesan services.

On the night of the fire, Prentice says that the emergency plan was put into effect and the women were evacuated to safety.

The future of the 19 survivors may be uncertain, but for the moment they are under the care of the Anglican Dioceses of Ottawa.

“The women were housed temporarily that night and the second night,” says Prentice, “we have now found interim housing for them.”

The building is still being assessed and Prentice is unable to give an estimate on how long the women will be housed in temporary housing before they can return to the Maclaren house.

Saturday’s fire at the Nepean residence is the latest in a spate of fires that have plagued Ottawa over the past two weeks. It is thought to have been a women’s only residence for international students and recent immigrations, although this cannot be confirmed as yet.

Cornerstone are looking for donations to offer 24-hours support services to residents and to help the remaining 19 women replace their personal belongings.

For more information about Cornerstone, go to their website at or call 613.237.4669.