Late one cold evening in February 2021, Adriana Bortas-Pauelesco received a knock at her door. A firefighter stood outside.

Bortas-Pauelesco and the other tenants in the five-storey apartment building nestled against Mount Royal in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges district were told they had to leave their homes that night. 

Building inspectors had discovered firewalls were removed during renovations and concluded the building was not safe. 

“We were scared, of course. I started to panic,” she recalled.

Bortas-Pauelesco, now 79, had only a few hours at the height of one of the worst pandemic waves to pack up her most important belongings. She spent the next four months in hotels. 

A diabetic, Bortas-Pauelesco said she struggled to regulate her blood sugar, until she moved into a room with a kitchenette.

Now back in her small apartment while renovation work continues in many of the units around hers, Bortas-Pauelesco has no plans to leave

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