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)

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