This is our final bill of rights blog. We saved the most disturbing narrative for last and it was written by a person who wishes to remain anonymous. The subject of the blog is good quality housing. In our research, this issue came up for about 65 percent of our respondents. Three themes emerged from the data: maintenance (63 percent felt that maintenance was very important); cleanliness and infestation (over half of the respondents found cleanliness to be important. Infestation was grouped with cleanliness—see the narrative below for more on this); neighbourhood (23 percent of respondents argued that it is important to live in a good area. This often had a large affect on their understanding of “good quality housing.”
Part of what is to be taken from this narrative is the fact that when housing quality is bad it can be distressing and an obvious health hazard. The conditions that the anonymous writer describes is worse than what we would expect to find in a Third World country. This is unacceptable for a country as rich as ours. What I find particularly disturbing is that the writer suggests that housing staff is aware of the conditions these tenants are living in, yet nothing changes. Can it be that nothing is done because these are consumer survivors? Supportive housing tenants have the right to good, quality housing. Here is the anonymous writer in his or her own words (the following was only edited for clarity)…
Right now I live in a condition that I never, ever thought I would find myself in. The double whammy is I can hear my mother saying what a disgrace I’ve brought to the family, for none of her children (or anyone in the family) have ever collected money from the government or have lived in supportive housing. You see, in my family it is a disgrace to collect welfare, and mental illness means you are a fool and an idiot and will never ever amount to anything good. The dirty condition of where I am living makes things even worse.
I am a homebody and the cleanliness of my living space is always at the top of my priority list. That is the way life has always been for me. Right now, in the bathroom, there is toilet papers or paper towels with feces sitting in the garbage. Some of the tenants are throwing the paper they use to wipe their bum into the garbage. Sometimes, they don’t flush the toilet. One of the tenants uses a portal toilet at night and she throws the waste in the toilet then washes the bowl in the bathroom sink; this stinks up the upper floor.
One of the other tenants keeps a large garbage bin in his room which contains the empties from his milk-based liquid supplement. Because he keeps his room extremely hot, the containers in the garbage bin grows maggots and the bin seems to have a fly farm somewhere inside. For the past few weeks, there has been a large amount of flies in the kitchen, the bathroom and the upstairs hallway. Flies disgust me because they sit on everything unclean and they come from maggots. Because of this, I rarely leave my room.
I saw the year-old—yes, year-old—dirty mop that is used to clean the bathroom floors and the hallway floors; a mop that when used to wipe the floor stinks up the entire house. I once saw this mop in the kitchen sink. The person who had the mop in the sink did not, afterward, clean the sink with bleach. Everyone just continued to use the germ infected sink.
Both the numerous different people, who come in and out of the house, and the tenants don’t seem to think there is something wrong with all of this. No one seems to notice the maggots in the garbage, the maggots on the porch. No one seems to notice the stink from the portal toilets being washed in the bathroom sink. No one seems to notice the mold farm in the bathroom, kitchen and basement. The large amount of toilet paper in the garbage with feces and flies are all “normal”. One [Housing Provider A] staff who came here about three weeks ago said the upstairs smells like toe cheese or dirty socks and she had a mask in her hand. Now, think of your hallway smelling like toe cheese/dirty socks and mix that smell with the cigarette smoke from three tenants.
When I first moved in, I spent most of my waking hours cleaning and trying to keep the house clean. I gave up because the job was too much. I don’t use the kitchen, so I am not eating properly and I use the bathroom at the gym. I feel degraded and pissed off when, during the little times I am at home, there are people walking in the house, people who don’t knock, ring the doorbell or give notice that they are entering the house.
All this is too much for me and more than I can bear. I can’t deal with this. It is even worse knowing that all three of my younger sisters have their own house with plenty of spare rooms. My parents have a four bedroom house in Heartlake. They only use one room. My uncle has a five bedroom house in Oshawa. He is divorced and lives by himself. Ninety-five percent of my family works for the government and have their own house. My family is not rich, but they are not poor. I am ashamed and embarrassed when I look at where I now live. I can hear my mother telling me that I am an idiot and will never amount to anything good. Now look where I live.
Around five years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic PTSD, depression, OCD, bipolar and I think there was anxiety. I made my diagnoses privy to my siblings and parents. It’s been almost five years and I haven’t seen or spoken to my family. I could contact them, but I don’t want to be compared to my younger sisters and hear what a disgrace I am.
I was offered a form to fill out so that I could be transferred to another [Housing Provider A] property, but I would rather wait and get my own place.