Lepage: ‘I don’t know what it’s like to have a home anymore’

Lepage: I don’t know what it’s like to have a home anymore

CONSTANCE BAY – Its been a battle every step of the way for more than a year and half for Constance Bay’s Lepage family. Yesterday (Dec. 3) was a milestone that raised more questions than it answered as the family watched their home of nearly 17 years come crashing down.

Yesterday, Melissa Lepage joined by two of her three children watched as their Bayview Drive family home, damaged beyond repair by the 2019 spring flood, was destroyed with no idea when the family might have a new home to move in to.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Melissa told West Carleton Online yesterday as she watched Malwood Aggregate clean up the rubble. “I’m sad. I’m hurt. I’m angry. It’s hard.”

It took more than a year-and-a-half following the extreme flooding of the spring of 2019 that caused mass damage to West Carleton’s Ottawa Riverside community to get to this point. It took about half-an-hour to demolish the home Lepage’s children grew up in and the family has called home since 2003.

Malwood Aggregates clean up the rubble of the Lepage's demolished family home.
Malwood Aggregates clean up the rubble of the Lepage’s demolished family home. Photo by Jake Davies

Lepage’s home was located in one of the worst hit areas in all of Ottawa. The water got so deep it was no longer safe for emergency vehicles to use the road – a road that had already been raised some 35 years ago due to major flooding back then. Emergency personal cut power to that section of Constance Bay in April of 2019 to reduce the risk of fire.

“In May 2019, we started to sandbag before the flooding started,” Melissa said. “Then the flooding started, and the water started to come in and then we just couldn’t keep up with it anymore. We ended up having to leave.”

“The water was so high, when you walked on the street it was about two feet deep,” Melissa’s son Nick said. “As soon as you got off the street, on our property over there, it was up to our hips.”

At one point during the flooding the city set up roadblocks at each end of the hardest hit part of Constance Bay. People could stay at their homes, but if they left the cordoned off area, they were not allowed back in.

With no power, there was not much the Lepages could do to protect their home. Finally, around April 30, they had to leave.

“They told us you have to go, you have to get out, you can’t stay here any longer,” Nick said. “So, we had to pull everything out. They shut the power off. We couldn’t keep pumping even if we wanted to. So, when that happened, there wasn’t any more we could do. The water was in our basement. The fire department told us ‘we had to leave. It’s time to evacuate, there’s nothing more we can do.’ We were trying as hard as we could. We kept fighting and fighting, but it kept coming in quicker than we could pump it out.”

Melissa, her husband Sylvain who is afflicted with frontal temporal dementia and her sons Jonathan and Anthony who are both on the autism spectrum, haven’t had a place to call home since (Melissa’s third son Nick and daughter Katy live on their own). And none of them have any idea when they might next have a place to call home.

“it will be two years in April,” Melissa said explaining where the delays come from. “A lot of it has had to do with insurance. It was a year when we finished battling with the insurance. That was a struggle. It basically comes down to insurance.”

Of course, Melissa can’t name the insurance company for fear of litigation. Sylvain was diagnosed with FTD, a progressive and rare form of dementia with no cure, during the flooding. Melissa has become a full-time caregiver to her husband, who is now unable to work. Her sons have been dealing with increased anxiety due to the circumstances the family now finds itself in.

Since the Lepages were forced out of their home in April 2019, they have bounced around finally relying on family for a place to stay.

“At first, we were living in a hunt camp (for approximately four months) at the beginning because insurance didn’t tell us that we had living expenses covered,” Melissa said. “Then they ended putting us up in a home in Kanata, so we moved, we lived there for eight to 10 months. Then they kicked us out from there because we didn’t take their agreement. Then a family member took us in, and we’ve been in Constance Bay since last March.”

Although Thursday’s house demolition was a milestone, the future is still foggy. Melissa has no idea when there will be a new house for them to move in to. For one, there isn’t enough money to rebuild.

“Insurance is not covering much at all,” Melissa said tearing up with the memories of the last year-and-a-half. “I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t know what it’s like to have a home anymore. I just want to bring my husband home. He just wants to go home. I want to go home too. It’s hard for him. With his dementia, he’d be better off in his own home. He wanted to come today, but he just couldn’t do it. He said he just can’t watch his home come down.”

The Lepages have been fundraising since last July trying to raise the funds needed to build a new home. Community leaders Corkery Community Association President Katherine Woodward and Dunrobin Community Association President Greg Patacairk have been helping with the fundraising.

Patacairk, unfortunately, has a lot of first-hand experience in disaster recovery after being one of the community leaders leading the recovery following the 2018 tornado. He was the first board chair of West Carleton Disaster Relief.

“Everything that could go wrong for them did,” Patacairk told West Carleton Online.  “I’m hoping we can get the gofundme page going again.”

Since July, the fundraising efforts have raised just about $32,000. Patacairk expects they will need $110,000 to get the construction going. He says he will accept any donation though – not just cash.

“Even gifts in kind,” Patacairk said. “Flooring, tubs, sinks, whatever, we need to put a house together.”

Patacairk says Dunrobin company Malwood discounted all of the services they provided with the demolition and removal of the Lepage’s house.

The Lepage Bayview lot is a small one. About 70 feet by 125 feet.

“The septic size will determine the house size,” he said. “It will be a bit of a challenge to fit a house on it.”

There are still permits to be obtained and a design plan to be put together, but Patacairk is confident a house build will begin in spring 2021.

“There will be a house starting in the spring,” he said.

“I don’t know where I’d be without Greg,” Melissa said. “I don’t even know how to say thank you.”

Melissa says Greg is just one of the community members who have helped her through this incredibly challenging time. She has felt the support of a community and it has helped keep her spirits up.

“We’ve received so many cards, letters and notes in the mail and I’ve kept them all,” Melissa said. “When I feel down, I go through them. These are people I don’t even know.”

If you are interested in donating to the Lepage house gofundme page, click here. If you can provide a service in kind, you can contact Greg Patacairk at 613-979-8393.