Evicting the Vulnerable
Toronto Community Housing has been evicting their elderly residents for minor offences
By: Caitlin McKay, Staff Writer
The Toronto Community Housing (TCH) has come under fire for failing to protect seniors from, what a city ombudsman says, is unfair evictions for seniors. TCH is the largest municipal landlord in Canada and second largest in North America. The organization offers housing to almost 6% of Toronto’s residents. They are a diverse group of Torontonians, who all share one commonality – poverty. More than 6,500 are over 80 years old.
To me, it seems morally corrupt for a government organization to turn elderly residents out into the cold. Not only does this practice tread on moral grey ground, it has also proven to be lethal. In 2009, The Toronto Star reported that 82 year old Al Gosling had died. He was a former city tenant who had been evicted after he failed to keep up his paperwork about his low income status. The Star article claimed Gosling lived in the stairwell of his old building for a week and then was taken to a homeless shelter where he became ill. He died over Thanksgiving weekend.
[pullquote]Not only does this practice tread on moral grey ground, it has also proven to be lethal.[/pullquote]
After it was discovered Gosling had died, the TCH solicited an independent review of their organization that was led by the Hon. Patrick LeSage. He found that TCH’s eviction practices were unclear and at times, misused. That was in 2009. Now, 3 years later not much has changed. In an interview with InsideToronto.com, the city ombudsman, Fiona Crean, said:
“My investigation has found TCHC staff did not change their practices. Instead there’s been a pattern of callous and unfair treatment of many seniors, including at least one case in which a tenant died shortly after eviction.”
My question is, how does this happen? According to the guidelines of the housing organization, eviction is supposed to be the last resort, not the first. They even have an eviction prevention policy! So how does Mr. B, whose case was highlighted in the report, have a $3,000 rent increase because he was late to report a change of income? This smells of bureaucratic horse – not sure I’m allowed to write that word … nonsense, I’ll go with, nonsense.
Unfortunately, it is the tenants who pay the price for government incompetence. I shy away from using the term,” government
malice,” but only to avoid conspiracy comments. In her 110 page report, released June 6th, Crean says:
“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.”
To be fair, TCH CEO Gene Jones has only had the position for roughly a year, which is not quite enough time to reign in mismanagement and questionable practices. In an interview with The Toronto Star back in 2012, the new CEO seemed eager to start renovating this housing organization. I hope that after this report, Jones takes a wrecking ball to it.
As reported by CBC, all of Crean’s recommendations have been accepted by TCH.
Caitlin McKay received her B.A.H of Global Development from Queen’s University. She has lived in Ghana, Africa, and has spent time in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal and Brazil. Her work mainly focuses on human rights, specifically anti-human trafficking advocacy.