Although Mayor Copeman has already received a longer and far more detailed letter from Ms. Ronald, the following is an abridged and edited version, with Ms. Ronald’s permission, for the purpose of publication. It is a story of her trials and tribulations with the city's social housing bureaucracy. It raises critical issues of the tragedy of what our seniors on fixed incomes have to go through. They, who built our society, suffer needlessly because our governments have not met their fiduciary responsibility to assure that pensions are sustainable. By 2020, some 30% of Montreal's non-francophone population will be seniors. Close to 40% will have no other source of income than government pensions which are below poverty levels of $19,000 for a single individual. There is no more vital issue on the agenda of social justice than to right the wrongs to the most vulnerable among us. Former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wanted to start increasing pensions two years ago. It is time to begin.
~ Beryl Wajsman, Editor
A plea to the Mayor of CDN-NDG
By Alana Ronald
Dear Mayor Copeman,
I am tired: very, very tired.
Although previously known to be both a healthy and active woman within my community, I fear that I may no longer have the energy I need to keep up the fight for what I consider to be my basic human right to lead a normal and peaceful life, as specified in the city’s own Montreal Charter.
Over the years, I have sent the OMHM many letters – some signed by my neighbors – in which I have mentioned all the details about the broken light fixtures, faulty buzzers and dirty hallways in this building. Without a janitor in residence, regular maintenance services are irregular and we are often forced to do such work as we can by ourselves. For example, I wash the hallways and pour salt on the sidewalks and am rarely helped by my neighbours even though I am the oldest person in this building.
In 2012, a so-called "harmless" intruder who originally kept breaking into my unit to rob me returned and seriously injured one of my elderly neighbours when she stabbed him in the hand during another attempted robbery. When I tried to try to help him, I was shooed away by police who told me to "mind your own business". The man is in his 80's and in fragile health. Subsequently he was again robbed and stabbed by the same person and remained hospitalized for months due to complications following the assult.
During a previous borough council meeting’s question period, you may recall that I raised the subject about the police and their insensitivity when dealing with the district’s sick and elderly residents after which you invited me to come to the next borough meeting in order to discuss the situation with the SPVM’ s representative. Mr. Mayor, you should know some of us do not have the health, the energy, or the means to attend each and every borough council meeting. While disappointed and puzzled as to why you did not refer my question to the proper (SPVM) authorities, I quickly realized that nothing would be done about our precarious situation because, frankly, nobody cares.
Mr. Mayor, you should consider that many of the borough’s elderly residents live alone with very few resources to help them manage their autonomy. They have no one to rely on and as such, we must all rally to help each other. Following the attack on my neighbour, social services told me that nothing could be done, and even suggested that I see a psychiatrist as I was so distressed about the situation. As for my old friend and neighbor, I can still recall how I found him days later when he was lying in a puddle of his own urine and unable to move following the second assault. As both police and hospitals refuse to provide any information to anyone who is not the patient’s relative, many seniors are left needlessly alone when the presence of a good friend could offer some comfort, solace & vital information.
Mister Mayor, this is unacceptable.
Currently, within my own building, I have problems with a tenant who the police describe as extremely “provocative” – their code for ‘crazy’. Aside from the constant noise and aggravation that includes eight break-ins and the random presence of strangers in the building, I have often been followed on the street and spat upon when I walk my dog. The situation has deteriorated to such a point that, after almost 5 years of this constant harassment, I was forced to ask for a new apartment.
I can no longer sleep in my bedroom due to noise. To make things worse, a new tenant who moved into my former neighbor’s vacant apartment began to smoke marijuana with his friends in the hall and used the laundry room as an extension of his apartment as a party room. While known to be mentally ill, it is still somewhat disconcerting to see him go get his mail in his underwear, shred the mail, and spit on the floor as he walks back to his unit. At one point, he used to knock on my door in order to beg for money. At first, I did what I could to help him but he began to toss soiled underwear and other personal effects in the hallway after i refused further demands for money. Following another incident, he started a fire in front of my door and I was forced to ask the OMHM management to intervene for my own protection after which he now leaves his dirty underwear strewn all over my garden.
Having been told by OMHM employees that I would only be eligible for a new apartment when I became a senior citizen in 2014, I immediately applied to move out of this area following my last birthday. I won’t bore you with the details, but arrangements for the new apartment did not work out after which I was told that I was “barred” and would not be permitted to apply for a new apartment until next year.
Meanwhile, I cannot emphasize the number of times my apartment has been sprayed for cockroaches by the extermination company that works for the housing authority. Alas, my upstairs neighbour keeps refusing to allow the exterminators to fumigate her apartment and as such, it doesn’t take a long time before the entire building is once again infested with roaches.
Mr. Copeman, I've done my best to omit several of the more tedious incidents in this litany of woe, but you should know that I have often called Mr. Lionel Perez, our local councillor, about this situation only to be met with a deafening silence. Even his secretary was surprised to learn that he did not return my calls after which she herself attempted to deflect my attention to both the police and other OMHM managers. I mentioned his lack of response at another borough meeting that was held some time ago after which Mister Perez did call me to give me the "right" number to reach him. But what good is the right number if he fails to respond to my calls?
Mr.Mayor, I am exhausted. According to my own doctor, I have suffered a serious physical, moral and psychological decline that continues to adversely affect my health. The quality of my life has diminished to the point that I am depressed and can no longer function as the active and civic-minded woman who used to volunteer time and effort to worthy causes. There seems to be no end to this nightmare because very few people , including yourself, can understand the kind of quiet and dull despair that continues to define the lives that are led within this building, and others, within the city’s own housing authority. After all, how many people do you know who wake up only to discover a puddle of urine in their boots?
As you are the person in charge of the city’s social housing file, I beg of you to intervene and help me get out of here. Through the efforts of Beryl Wajsman and his Institute for Public Affairs, the money for my move has been raised. But i need you to tell me what I must do to get out of this toxic situation and where I can go so that I can recover both my health and my life. If nothing else, I would be very grateful if I could just take a quiet walk with my 17 year old dog and rediscover the person I once was rather than be considered as little more than a problem to be dealt with and summarily dismissed.
I am tired, sir. Very tired. And I need your help!