Beloved book nook used by Nanaimo's homeless torched during the night

By Spencer Sterritt
September 13, 2018 - 6:32pm

The husk of the Wisteria Lane book nook, being investigated by Nanaimo Fire Rescue.submitted/Tanya Hiltz

Hiltz said the top shelf was packed with clothes and bedding, which is now all up in smoke.submitted/Tanya Hiltz

NANAIMO — A beloved book nook, where Nanaimo's homeless and low-income residents could always find clothes and supplies, has burned down.

The outdoor cabinet was located on Wisteria Lane, an alley off Nicol St. Created by Tanya Hiltz, it was part of an area movement to help those in need along with the Stone Soup program which provides a hot meal every night.

Hiltz said the book nook went up in flames at 3 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13. Several early morning users of the storage spot saw flames licking out from inside the cabinet and alerted Hiltz, who doused it with her family.

All that's left is a burned out husk.

“This book nook's been going on now for nearly seven years and it's never had any real issues,” she told NanaimoNewsNOW in disbelief.

Even though the cabinet was only half full, Hiltz said there was still a significant number of books and bedding lost to the flames.

“We always try to make sure there's a little bit of food and a little bit of clothing and bedding in there so people can have a fresh start. This is not just for the homeless. This is for low-income families too. We put in dishes, pots and pans, while people drop off food to make sure kids around here have enough to eat.”

Hiltz and the Wisteria Lane Association plans to rebuild the book nook in coming days and are asking for donations of lumber and supplies.

Even once the book nook is rebuilt, Hiltz said the fire won't be forgotten by those who use it. 

"The street people have their own system of dealing with each other," she said. "They've made it very clear if they find out who it was, they'll be dealing with them."


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On Twitter: @spencer_sterrit

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