Van fire draws community compassion

NANAIMO – Retired teachers step up to help woman left homeless by camper van fire.

A camper van fire that left a woman homeless is drawing compassion from the community.

Victoria Szado had moved out to Nanaimo looking for work. She was here five weeks, living in her 1974 Ford Econoline camper van to save money while she tried to find work.

Everything she owned went up in flames when the vehicle caught fire Dec. 19.

Now two retired teachers, Margaret Litch and a second unnamed individual, have stepped up to ask the public for financial help for Szado and have set up a trust account people can donate to.

“Her situation is that she’s in a shelter at the moment because she was living in her van and that’s good, but she can’t stay at the shelter because she’s not addicted, mentally ill or being abused and so there are no beds for somebody who’s basically alright, but homeless,” Litch said.

Litch said she first became aware of Szado’s situation through reports in the TV and print media.

“She’s living in the van to save money while she looks for work and everything is lost,” Litch said. “I thought that was just too much for me. It was more than just someone having a tough time. To lose everything while you’re trying to make a new life? So I just can’t say, ‘Well, that’s too bad,’ I just had to do something.”

Litch tracked down Szado and after talking with her decided to open up a trust account for people to donate to.

It’s often hard to get work without a permanent place of residence. Litch hopes cash donations will help, but also that a potential employer might have a job offer.

“What she wants, of course, is a job,” Litch said. “She’s very anxious to work. She’s been here five weeks trying to get work, but that hasn’t happened. I’m thinking perhaps with this publicity someone may come forward to offer her a job.”

Anyone who wishes to make a donation can do so at any Coastal Community Credit Union branch to account No. 747775.