On October 8th, at approximately 2:30 pm, a fire ripped through the home of an Onkwehonwe family in Ohsweken. Thankfully no one was physically injured, but the occupants lost everything they owned save for a few clothing items.
The house is one of several units owned by the Six Nations’ community at The Grand River, and the care and condition is monitored by the housing department of the Six Nations Band Council.
Cheyenne Williams recalls that afternoon.
“I went into daughter’s room because Abel was messing with the dog bed and locked himself in and I was like man it’s hot in here, and I could smell the burning wires, but I couldn’t find anything so I unplugged EVERYTHING like searching for this smell, and I couldn’t find it.
Then Abel and I went downstairs, but he was asking for the dog, so I told him to go ahead and let her out of her bed. So he and the dog both came booking down the stairs, and he was yelling, “it’s hot,” so I went up, and my daughter’s whole room was in flames. Like her white walls were pink.”
Williams says she had made the appropriate contacts at the Six Nations Housing Department aware of electrical issues. A particular concern was malfunctioning lighting. According to Williams, these complaints resulted in weekly housing assessments, rather than correcting the problem.
After a close call
Williams never imagined she would face homelessness as a result; after three months, a lapse in community support systems almost made that a reality on January 1st. With her own home not ready, Williams took to social media to initiate a search for a stable environment for herself and her children.
She states she was initially was offered a cabin in Chiefswood park; however, she admits they could not accommodate the required safety measures for her exceptional needs son. Something that is not negotiable for Williams.
Not too soon
Williams is moving into a temporary home until her home is ready.
Experts have found that experiencing a house fire can cause physical and psychological symptoms. In addition, the loss of shelter, belongings, and comfort can initiate a prolonged fight or flight response and elevate cortisol levels related to the stress.
We reached out to the Six Nations Elected Council and Six Nations Housing Department but have not heard back.