Sunday, August 30, 2009

Minister of Housing comes calling

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jim Watson, Minister of Housing, came calling. Laurene Wagner (OCH) and David Loveridge (OCH), myself and another tenant, Lois joined him on a mini tour of 2100 Russell Road. We showed him the damages done by a few tenants, told him of the plans to fix them and asked him to change the regulations to the Act to enable OCH to control the types of people admitted. Clearly wide open policy has not worked. It has, in a few short years turned our building from a perfectly lovely spot to a slum dump.

Among the things Mr. Watson was shown were the walls with all the patched holes, mostly on the 4th floor, the carpets with the stains and cigarette burns, the ceilings with the tiles broken. He also got to see the parking lots, the courtyard and the back garden. David also opened up one of the vacant but ready to rent units so he could see that these are really very nice units in a very nice setting. Some tenants do not seem to appreciate it, but very few apartment blocks, private or public, come with the potentially beautiful grounds and the absolutely gigantic balconies that this one has. It was pointed out to the Minister, that the lovely shape the green areas are in is due to a lot of hard work by a handful of tenants as well as the lawn care done by Housing.

Mr. Watson was asked to speak to the Minister of Social Services about the people who use the system to get a roof and food money and then turn their apartments into crack houses and brothels - in effect enabling the criminal elements to carry on their illegal and disruptive little businesses. He was also asked to look into some sort of screening to ensure that drug addicts, hookers and other criminal elements are not put under the same roof as retired people, disabled people, children etc. He was also told of the problems encountered here when previously hospitalized mental patients are turned loose to fend for themselves without any care for what happens when they stop taking the medications that enable them to fit in and no discernible way to prevent them from falling into that trap.

Before he left, Mr. Watson was given a CD of pictures of the holes and other damages before the Maintenance crews patched them up. It is not as good a message as having him live here for a month or two would be but it is always better when someone in his position actually sees the damage than when they just rely on verbal descriptions.

He did promise to look into making changes to the Act to address some of these concerns. He also had suggestions and phone numbers of people who can help in the interim (I shall have him send them by email). He also said that this is a time consuming endeavour so not to be expecting instant changes.

The time allotted to us to get the message across to him was short - half an hour. I think we did a pretty good job - time will tell. He has, I am told, done some pretty decent work in the other Ministries that he has been involved in and our hopes are high that he will do just as well for us in this one.

The one area where the tenants here shine is the yard work! Hats off to everyone who has taken part this summer. Above is a picture of yours truly, picking up litter. I am with my chief boss, Bambi and she is one slave driver, if ever there was one! Since we started this 'keep the outdoor areas tidy' campaign, lots of people have done things to help - some major efforts, some small. Even the small efforts are worthy of doing again - like those who make an effort to put their trash in a bin instead of on the ground and those who use the butt tins for their cigarette butts. We have tried to keep a butt tin at door one but some mental midget keeps removing it. We will keep trying. :o)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Catch Up Time

There have been a lot of things going on and I have gotten behind with the blog. Gave myself 10 lashes with a wet spaghetti noodle. Worked too! I am back with a catch up blog!

Early in August, the Volunteer dragon slayers who signed up at the earlier, bigger evening meeting, got together a couple of times with with Housing and ACORN. The long story made very short is that the manner and direction of the next big meeting was laid out. The dragon Slayer threw a rare temper tantrum with people who get off focus and with members who bring children to meetings. The more tactful Shaun from Housing calmed the waters BUT retaining your focus is essential and children do not belong in war rooms (or in this case in these meetings.) It is unfair to them and it is unfair to those who seriously are trying to accomplish things.

My Rent! My Vote! Campaign

August 11th saw some of us from 2100 Russell Road picketing along with other ACORN members picketing for changes in the rules for Landlords. The picture at the top is of our very own Sheila and another ACORN member, Kat. Perhaps some of you saw others from 2100 in the CTV news that evening. It is perhaps good for those of us in Ottawa Housing units to know life could be a good deal worse - We could be living in some of the privately owned and run low cost housing which is really, really, really bad! In fact, I would urge those among us here who spend their days whining and complaining about Housing to Join ACORN and talk to some of the unfortunate folks who have found themselves living in some of the worst of these places. A little appreciation for what we have in our Government run places would probably be a good thing to have. Meeting some of the ACORN members who live in Transglobal units, for example, can't help but make you appreciate this place.

So - ACORN is working on a campaign to get these slum landlords to clean up their act and asking the powers that be in both levels of government to require licensing and standards and rules. The incentive we offer is our vote. Costs you nothing but a few minutes and a good reason. This is your good reason! Politicians who really want their seats should sit up and pay attention. There are a lot of poor people with votes. And those votes, if we use them and use them wisely, can be the difference between being put upon, put down, held down - what ever phrase applies to you - and being a winner with a decent home and with your self respect in tact.

I have preprinted postcards you can send to the Councilman, Mr. Hume in this regard, or, if I get enough of them, I will hand deliver them.

Do we really need to be calling the police on each other??

One would hope not but some people make NOT calling or not complaining to Housing, very difficult indeed!

One of the things in the lease you signed as a tenant was:
The Tenant agrees:
To respect the privacy, security and peace of other tenants and to ensure that all members of the household and any guests behave in the same way.

This is a part of a legal agreement that you signed. Strictly speaking, you can be evicted legally for breaking it and many private landlords do just that. Ottawa Housing is way more lenient with most occurrences. Some tenants here break this agreement daily!

One day last week the police were called. For the better part of an hour one tenant yelled at the top of her lungs, using every dirty word she could find (mostly the F word) and issuing threats to one or more other tenants in the courtyard. I did not see it myself but I most certainly did hear it as did anyone living in a unit that faces the courtyard who was home at the time. I have been told that she was heard on the other side of the building at the door 2 entrance as well. Another tenant (unfortunately one with a short fuse herself) tried to shut the instigator up. Not a good plan! Now the second person has lowered themselves to the same low level of the first and is just as guilty of breaking their lease as the first. Better to call security or the police. Because threats were made, the police are the best choice. Besides, if security knows threats of bodily harm have been issued, they will tell you to call the police.

The roof over your head depends on you and your behaviour. Ottawa Housing is not your Mother and 2100 Russell is not a hospital! You are adults! You are expected to keep a handle on your temper and a rein on your tongue. If you drink and cannot control yourself when you do, then perhaps it is time to see the folks at AA - before you find yourself out on the street. If you cannot control your temper, then it is time to get help and help is available. Your social worker or your GP should be able to put you in touch with someone who will help you with anger management.

This is not about me and how offended I am. It is about you and protecting the roof over your head. And if you eventually do get booted out on the street, it is not about me and the other tenants you failed to respect. It is really about the lack of respect you have for yourself. Only you can fix that!

In the meantime, expect to have other tenants call the security and/or police when you do not respect your fellow tenants by keeping the noise down, your vocabulary tidier and your level of respect a good deal higher. If any tenant wants a list of the police call numbers, they are yours to take from the bulletin board (when our resident thief does not rip them off for something to do - now he is one sad dude! And he, too, is looking to get a one way pass to a home under a bridge.)

I am so late with this blog, I am going to sentence myself to 10 more lashes with that wet noodle and do more updating with the next blog, coming soon!