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Outraged, the mother of a woman who been in a shelter for more than six months since being burned out of a group home by a deadly fire says London politicians should spend a night in her daughter shoes.

Charlene Finch said her blood boiled when she read in The Free Press the city is only now creating a committee to look into how to deal with unregulated housing, an issue that flared with the Nov. 3 fire.

Finch daughter, Jenny Finch, was among two dozen residents taken to the Salvation Army Centre of Hope after the fire at a group home for the mentally ill and addicted, and is one of five still there today.

A 72 year old man, David MacPherson, died of his injuries from the blaze.

The fire at 1451 Oxford St., in a building operated by a group called People Helping People, shone a harsh spotlight on unregulated housing conditions in Lonon an issue that largely fallen between the cracks in Ontario, despite a landmark report more than 20 years ago calling for sweeping changes.

love to see the members of city council walk a mile in my daughter shoes and live in the conditions (she) has to live, said Finch. should spend a night in the shelter and experience the same things these people do no luxuries, no credit cards. Then something would be done. isn the first such call.

In 2002, after a fire tore through a boarded up building, killing Leslie Ann Trussler, the London Homeless Coalition challenged city councillors to spend a night on the streets.

Only three Joni Baechler, David Winninger and Susan Eagle, all now gone from council did.

Hearing about Finch call, Homeless Coalition chair Abe Oudshoorn said he welcome such a move.

me, the value is in talking to individuals, to hear their stories, he said.

quicker you can get people into quality, safe affordable and supportive housing, the better their outcomes. critics say the city response to last fall fire, which ignited a debate about unregulated and often hazardous group homes for the mentally ill, has been anything but speedy. Some cities have moved to clamp down on such housing, in the absence of provincial action called for in a 1990s report that found living conditions in flop houses, cheap hotels and the like comparable to the worst of Victorian England.

Last week, the city said it forming a committee to look into the best of what other municipalities do an idea suggested by a housing advisory committee more than three months earlier.

many people die and suffer needlessly while people sit drinking bottled water? John Swales, an advocate for the vulnerable in London, asked in the aftermath of that move.

While other types of supportive housing are regulated by Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the province has largely washed its hands of regulating privately run group homes for the mentally ill, critics say. As a result, people deemed well enough to live in the community, with support, instead often are left to fend for themselves and end up on the street. curfew at the shelter. She was recently scolded in front of visitors, for inviting them over without asking permission.

hate this, she said, sitting in a hallway at the shelter.

hate being homeless. Every situation in this place is terrible. When they come to stay in a shelter, they are in a bad situation, she said.

Finch, who has behaviour and mental health issues linked to fetal alcohol system, said she feels neglected by the city and social service providers, half a year after the fire that forced her out.

She said she dreams of having her own apartment, and has looked at many, but has had no luck.

has been done since November, said Finch, who kept every newspaper story about the blaze. not right. You don just drop us off in a shelter, and expect us to live in a shelter forever. We weren homeless to begin with. the fire, attention turned to home operator Keith Charles, the founder of People Helping People, which is billed as a peer support agency for people living with mental illness and addiction.

His homes he ran at least three, and still operates two had developed a reputation for being substandard, filthy, unsafe and filled with fire code hazards.

Charles is now charged with 19 fire code and city bylaw infractions, but maintains he has good intentions, welcomes regulations and that his homes are the only alternative to homelessness for many.

Finch and four other former residents of the Oxford St. building are staying at the shelter. Others are with family or in other homes operated by Charles.

hear about other people who have had floods or fires, or whatever and they come in (to the shelter) but then they are in a home again soon, said Jenny Finch.
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