Ark Aid Mission of London, Ont., said a fire that caused extensive damage to its Dundas Street location will not disrupt its community services.
Estimating the damage at $50,000, fire crews battled the blaze at the back entrance of the Dundas Street building on Tuesday evening.
The entire rear of the building, including a storage shed, stairwell, areas leading into the kitchen, and a transitional apartment were all damaged, according to Sarah Campbell, executive director of Ark.
“Fire crews handled the situation very quickly and effectively,” Campbell said. “Only a few flames and smoke damage got inside, but most of the damage is in fact on the outside of the building.”
No injuries were reported, and police have deemed the fire suspicious.
Campbell said that the building was unused and undergoing construction but that two tenants were living in the apartment upstairs.
“Thankfully, neither were home at the time of the fire,” Campbell said.
“The sanctuary apartment is a program where people can, for specific reasons, use that housing to transition to permanent housing. So two men have been affected by that and we are looking for housing options for them as we will have to do some remediation to that place.”
“Right now, we really aren’t clear on exactly how the fire started, but we are trying to get to the bottom of that,” Campbell said.
The Ark Aid Mission of London is a non-profit organization working to help those struggling within the community by offering a variety of programs and services.
“We’re more than a soup kitchen,” Campbell said. “During the pandemic, our programs and services expanded exponentially. We have shower and laundry program outreach and advocacy. And of course, we started the winter response trailers with the city last winter this year and that evolved into a graduated housing program called Wish to be Home. But that’s just some of what we offer with the support that comes from the community.”
Campbell said that renovations of the Dundas Street building should be complete by March 2023 and will include 12 transitional housing rooms along with available space for additional services.
“We were hoping to open some limited programs in the summer months that may be delayed because of the fire,” Campbell said. “But we are absolutely always, as an organization, going to be looking to fill those gaps and to maximize the impact of every community dollar we receive to support those most in need.”
The Ark moved operations temporarily to the First Baptist Church on Richmond Street, across from the Victoria Park bandshell.
Anyone with information can contact London Police Service at 519-661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.