Who Decides for Seniors Living in Low-Income Housing?
Fifty of the hundred seniors living at 760 Gamelin have signed a petition in favour of reinstating their tenants’ association, but a spokesperson for the low-income housing authority that runs their building says their request will be refused.
“They can work in collaboration with us, but they can’t organize a tenant’s association until the problems are solved,” says Valerie Rheme, a communications officer with the Office municipal d’habitation de Montreal (OMHM). “We have to take baby steps to get back on track.”
This is just the latest display of the lack of respect tenants say they’ve come to expect of the OMHM. When the Suburban first met with five tenants from the building during the long weekend holiday in late June, their biggest concerns were their struggles handling medical and security emergencies without full-time staff in the building. They told me that more former Douglas Hospital residents arrive every year and since they aren’t medically supervised, they often cause abuse, noise and fear. A part-time security guard tells them to call police when something is stolen or they fear for their safety.
The building looked well-maintained and freshly painted on the third floor where we met, but tenants said they worried about hidden mould and fungus from the water used to put out a fire two years earlier. They also said that their janitor couldn’t clean and repair everything in the building in only two days a week. They also complained that rat and bed bug infestations are difficult to eradicate because the housing authority sprays single units at a time.
A facility tour confirmed a dirty garbage chute, mould on some ceiling tiles and locked doors on unused office space in the basement. The common room—the only air-conditioned public space in the building—was also locked, although by my next visit, a volunteer tenant had been given a key to open it daily. The adjoining kitchen remains locked, except on Wednesdays.
Subsequent tours of four other LaSalle-based OMHM-run buildings for low-income seniors (720 Gamelin, 1580 Shevchenko, and 9576 and 9601 rue Jean-Milot) revealed similar circumstances. Residents work hard to take care of pleasant gardens and create a homey atmosphere but get little support to solve problems. Floor tiles in hallways are cracked, common rooms are locked and grass grows freely through the stones on public patios. Tenants report problem tenants and extra fees for everything, including rides to doctors, dentists and the CLSC.
None of the buildings have active tenant associations.
(This article appeared in the city edition of the Suburban on August 3.)
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