Lasalle— Two long meetings did little to reassure tenants in the seniors buildings on Gamelin that life will get back to normal anytime soon, despite several announcements fulfilling some of their needs. Instead, mutual distrust will keep the kitchen doors locked, non-profit groups in charge of finances, and tenants feeling helpless. “This is a terrible place to live,” said Lise Mitchell, a tenant at 720, after the meeting. “Whatever you do, don’t end up in a place like this.”
The three-hour meetings took place on Thursday September 22 at 760 Gamelin, and last Friday at 720 Gamelin. A buffet lunch preceded more than an hour of presentations by representatives from Montreal’s municipal housing authority (OMHM), local police, the CLSC, the Borough of Lasalle and the Saint Antoine and Vieux Moulin community centres. “For us, it was very important that we show that the four organizations, the Borough of Lasalle and the CLSC are working closely together,” said Louise Hébert, OMHM’s director of communications. “We are four organisms who have received complaints about serious abuse and harassment in those buildings. We are putting more resources there because we want it to stop.”
The tense mood before, during, and after both meetings marked a sharp contrast to the sunny day in August when 92 people attended a corn roast at 760 Gamelin. That day wasn’t organized or attended by any officials, other than a Suburban reporter. Tenants collaborated to organize an afternoon of laughter, relaxed conversation combined with delicious food.
While almost half of the 720 tenants attended their official meeting, fewer than 30 tenants attended the 760 meeting. A tiny crowded room and the presence of three police officers in uniform may have kept more away. One police officer was on the official panel, but two additional uniformed officers arrived in police cruisers soon after the meeting began. A very loud woman was complaining outside of the room at the time, but she happily accompanied a reporter outside to express her complaints without force. No other disturbances were obvious. The Suburban already has a request in to interview the Lasalle police chief; we’ll add the reason for this show of force to our list of questions.
During both meetings, tenants quietly waited for their turn to speak while officials explained their roles and announced up-coming programs. Bingo games will resume in both buildings, garbage ventilation systems should be installed by November, and assertiveness training begins in October.
When tenants got the right to speak, they raised issues about locked kitchen doors, dirty public spaces, lengthy waits for repairs, over-bearing security, bullying and favouritism by officials and even mild assault. Many of their concerns were brushed aside, and in one case, a resident was told that the incident she described didn’t happen.
The meeting at 720 Gamelin seemed relatively smooth until Teddy Macintyre’s request to speak was refused. Macintyre commutes daily from Lachine to look after her 83-year-old father who has Alzheimer’s. She lived in 720 Gamelin until June, when she gave up the possibility of a two-bedroom apartment in Lasalle and sleeping on the couch was no longer possible. She also used to be president of the tenants’ association.
When officials refused her the right to speak, she stood up and yelled, “I knew you wouldn’t let me speak, I knew it.” At least thirteen other tenants also raised their voices and requested that she be allowed to talk, but officials refused. Despite many raised voices, Macintyre was the only person who had to leave the room.
(Note: This was published on p3 of the city edition of The Suburban yesterday.)