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article imageWhere is the dignity for seniors in Toronto Community Housing? Special

By KJ Mullins     Jun 13, 2013 in World
Toronto - Some of Toronto's neediest seniors have been thrown out of their homes and into the shelter system by Toronto Community Housing in what appears to be inconsistent arrears rulings.
"Where is the dignity for a senior?" -- Crisis Nurse Anne Marie Batten
In 1988 Al Gosling moved into a TCHC (Toronto Community Housing Corporation) building where he lived until five months before his death. He was thrown out in May 2009 at the age of 81.
Gosling died in October 2009 from complications of an infection he got while staying at one of the city's shelters. At the time of his death he was homeless.
Al shouldn't have been homeless. He had been evicted because he didn't fill out the forms to verify his low income status. Al had thought that the income declarations were made automatically. When he didn't get the papers in on time TCHC upped his rent to market rates. At the time of his eviction Al was told he owed $2,700. That sum was too much for a person living on a pension to cough up so he was put to the street with his locks changed. He tried to sleep in the stairwell but the police were called and he was taken to hospital.
Al was not the only senior to be evicted in recent years. In a 110 page report Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean detailed the stories of 79 seniors who were evicted in 2011 and 2012. What she found was inconsistencies. Some who are in arrears are not given walking papers while others are. Some tenant's arrears accounts build up over time until the total is so high they can't see their way out and then are required to pay in full or move out. Eviction, a measure that is required to be the last resort, has for some taken place in quick measure.
“Some of Justice LeSage’s recommendations that have not been implemented are simple and straightforward,” says Crean “with no obvious excuse for three years of delay. As for the policies TCHC has adopted, staff don’t always follow them.”
Crean found that there are no standards in place for seniors to pay back their arrears allowing for some seniors to have insurmountable levels of debt.
Crean has made 30 recommendations for changes within Toronto Community Housing Corporation including rent reviews for seniors every two years instead of annually, documents be written in easy to understand English and providing tenants with a receipt for the documents they submit in the annual review process.
“I am glad TCHC has acknowledged its failures and committed yet again to improvements” says Crean, “but this investigation speaks to a larger problem. It is clear the people who are paying the price are the most vulnerable in our society, seniors who are poor, many of whom are vulnerable with failing health and mental health challenges.”
“They are the ones that are being hurt,” says Crean, “and I am worried not enough people care.”
Crisis nurse Anne Marie Batten said today during a phone interview that Gosling is not the only senior whose eviction lead to their death. "There are wide cracks in the system. It's heartbreaking."
Batten said that often by the time a senior is facing eviction there are serious issues in place such as cognitive function and health issues.
"When a senior is evicted they may have medical issues that are too acute for the shelters to handle. When this happens they go into hospital," Batten said. Of course those seniors are the ones with support teams in place, for the others life becomes even riskier. "The seniors may not have the services that they need to maneuver the system."
City Councillor Josh Matlow asked council to have the ombudsman know whenever a senior is facing eviction for unpaid rent. That move is not something that TCHC CEO Gene Jones wants reports the Toronto Star.
“I don’t want to do that,” Jones said. “I have my own internal mechanism. I don’t need to report and report and report. Someone’s got to be accountable, and I’m the one that’s accountable.”
More about tchc, Fiona Crean, Al Gosling, Toronto
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