Crystal Harlick and her four children were forced from their Etobicoke home after it was largely destroyed by fire in late March. While firefighters managed to get Harlick and her children out before the apartment was entirely engulfed, her 11-year-old son, Isaiah Tyrell, suffered serious burns to over 30 per cent of his body.
"The cop came and I told him, 'please, my son's up there. He didn't hesitate, he ran up that ladder," Harlick says, recalling the blaze that gutted her subsidized housing unit.
"Then he came out with Isaiah and all I could see was his feet. They were just charred."
Isaiah is currently recovering at the Hospital for Sick Children, where he has had multiple surgeries and a finger amputation. Despite his injuries, he could be set for release as early as next week.
Harlick, however, has been unable to find a new place to live since the fire and didn't have tenants' insurance. She's been told it could take up to a year before her family can move back into their apartment.
Two of her other children are staying with their grandmother, while her infant is in the care of a close friend as she tries to find a new home. The hospital, however, won't discharge Isaiah, as he doesn't have a suitable place to go home to.
"I just want a home. I just want us to be together," Harlick told CBC News. "Why are we being punished for this? Why is no one helping us?"
Aboriginal Legal Services has stepped in and taken on Harlick's case in a bid to find her family new housing. Spokeswoman Christa Big Canoe says both the landlord and Housing Connections — a division of Toronto Community Housing — could be doing more to help.
"There seems to be a gap in service ... What do we do if everyone gets to throw their hands up and say, 'Oh, we can't do anything'? Is there any accountability? What about the rules that apply for prioritizing families in need?"
Housing Connections said in an email statement that it doesn't provide emergency or temporary housing.
In a show of support, family friends have started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Harlick so she can find a temporary home.
The Ontario Fire Marshal has not ruled on what may have caused the fire.