Tenants call for crackdown
Residents of social housing units say board must do more to make buildings safer

Sat, October 30, 2004

The familiar complaints of bed bugs, crime, rude tenants and an environment that leaves many seniors feeling unsafe at Ottawa Community Housing buildings echoed in City Hall yesterday.

One by one, seniors, support workers and younger tenants spoke to the new board of the housing corporation asking for changes they say would make their buildings a better place to live.

At issue was whether some seniors buildings should continue to allow younger tenants.


"There's good and bad in everybody," Joan McNamara said, adding that the answer to the problems lies in building a community among tenants.

McNamara said her building had been a mixed-age building but is now back to being for seniors only. In the past, there have been problems with bringing younger people in, she said.

"Some with the drugs, reconverting areas in their units and the police of course being there constantly doesn't give a good impression for the neighbours," she said.

McNamara said the system works best when tenants work together and help one another.

Margo Boire said the problem is not the age of tenants but how tenants are selected and the services they receive. Boire was especially critical of a program that brings homeless people into social housing without any determination of their social skills or whether they could live in a communal environment.

"That's what's causing the trouble in itself," said Boire.

Last month, the city was shocked by the case of one senior who had been assaulted in his social housing apartment by crack-hunting home invaders looking for a drug dealer.

Albert Damiano, 75, was hit three times with a bat and knocked to the ground in his 21st-floor apartment before the attackers realized they had the wrong unit.

The assailants then went up to the 22nd floor, where they badly beat Fred Brenckmann, a male friend and female tenant Laura Copeman with a bat, metal chain and other weapons.


Coun. Diane Holmes said the city needs to ensure that illegal activities and anti-social behaviour stop in social housing buildings and the city needs to begin bringing back more seniors-only buildings.

"There's not enough money to interview people coming in from shelters, so we don't know who can live independently and who has enough social skills to live in the building," said Holmes. "If they're taking people in from shelters who are drug dealers, who have lived on the street and have no social skills, that's a problem."