DES­PER­ATE TO MOVE

Saska­toon fam­ily wants out of ‘bad’ apart­ment

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - ALEX MACPHER­SON amacpher­son@post­media.com twit­ter.com/macpher­sona

SASKA­TOON Wa­tery sun­light seeps into the garage be­tween boards nailed over a bro­ken win­dow. A sec­ond win­dow, draped with a filthy sheet, il­lu­mi­nates the kitchen, shin­ing light on the dirty floor, shat­tered or miss­ing cab­i­nets, an an­cient fridge rimmed with filth and graf­fiti, and a scorched stove pow­ered by a fray­ing power cord.

Mary-Ann McLeod and her son Jonathan — who are Metis — have lived in the apart­ment, which is owned by Saska­toon’s most con­tro­ver­sial land­lord and is be­lieved to have once been a garage, since May 1. Orig­i­nally from La Ronge, both fam­ily mem­bers rely on the prov­ince’s Saskatchewan As­sured In­come for Dis­abil­ity (SAID) pro­gram for sup­port. They pay $918 a month in rent.

“Ba­si­cally, we’re ashamed of it. We’re em­bar­rassed. But we have to keep on go­ing,” said Mary-Ann, who has used a wheel­chair for mo­bil­ity over the last four years. She said she and her son had lit­tle choice but to move into the garage on Saska­toon’s Av­enue F South, af­ter los­ing their last apart­ment.

“It’s re­ally bad,” she said of the suite, which is at­tached to the back of a crum­bling bun­ga­low and con­tains no fur­ni­ture apart from two wheel­chairs. Mary-Ann and Jonathan say they sleep on the floor, wrapped in blan­kets to fend off the cock­roaches, and that the only heat comes from a pair of tiny elec­tric heaters mounted low on the walls.

“The fire in­spec­tor said they wouldn’t al­low their cat to live where we’re liv­ing,” Jonathan said, adding that while he and his mother have been look­ing for a dif­fer­ent place to live, her lack of mo­bil­ity and their re­liance on dis­abil­ity in­come has made that search dif­fi­cult. A let­ter sent to the Min­istry of So­cial Ser­vices in July ask­ing for help hasn’t been an­swered, he said.

Ac­cord­ing to In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices Corp. records, the Av­enue F prop­erty is owned by Grover Hold­ings Ltd. The com­pany’s pres­i­dent is Jagdish “Jack” Grover, who owns mul­ti­ple prop­er­ties and has a long his­tory of le­gal con­flicts with the city’s fire and build­ing in­spec­tors, in­clud­ing more than 100 tick­ets or con­vic­tions for vi­o­la­tions such as fail­ing to main­tain smoke alarms.

Grover’s prop­er­ties have been in­volved in dozens of fires, in­clud­ing a 2012 blaze on Av­enue D North that killed a 60-year-old man. In 2006, Grover was sen­tenced to one year in jail af­ter be­ing con­victed of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, a charge stem­ming from his at­tempt to al­ter smoke de­tec­tor in­spec­tion records fol­low­ing a dif­fer­ent fire that killed a three-year-old girl and her in­fant sis­ter.

Mary-Ann and Jonathan claim to have had mul­ti­ple run-ins with Grover. They said he’s yelled at them and, on one oc­ca­sion, de­manded they pay $1,800 per month to live in the garage, os­ten­si­bly be- cause the first pay­ment — pro­vided to an in­ter­me­di­ary — didn’t reach him. He sub­se­quently de­manded they turn over their govern­ment cheques to him, they said.

Reached by phone, Grover said “there’s noth­ing wrong with the suite” and de­scribed it as a goodqual­ity apart­ment. He added that the two-bed­room apart­ment is le­gal and that $918 per month — more than the $830 av­er­age for a sin­gle-bed­room apart­ment in Saska­toon, but less than the av­er­age two-bed­room rental rate of $980 — is a fair price to pay.

Grover went on to say that Mary Ann and Jonathan haven’t paid rent since the end of June, and that they have been ly­ing and com­ing up with dif­fer­ent sto­ries to ex­plain it. He said the Saskatchewan Of­fice of Res­i­den­tial Te­nan­cies has been con­tacted and that he hopes “they take care of it.”

The land­lord de­clined to an­swer fur­ther ques­tions.

Two so­cial work­ers em­ployed by the pro­vin­cial Min­istry of So­cial Ser­vices — which is re­spon­si­ble for the SAID pro­gram and the peo­ple with “sig­nif­i­cant and en­dur­ing” dis­abil­i­ties who use it — are aware of the sit­u­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to change-of-res­i­dence forms sub­mit­ted to the govern­ment.

The Min­istry of So­cial Ser­vices wouldn’t ac­com­mo­date an in­ter­view re­quest and said in an email that it can’t com­ment on spe­cific cases. How­ever, Jeff Redekop, the min­istry’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of in­come as­sis­tance, con­firmed in an email that “we are reach­ing out in this case and will be work­ing to help them.”

Cit­ing pri­vacy rules, Redekop said the min­istry could not com­ment fur­ther.

The McLeods, mean­while, are des­per­ate for a new place to live. Mary-Ann said it’s not clear why their ef­forts haven’t been suc­cess­ful, and spec­u­lated that it could be their skin colour, their re­liance on the SAID pro­gram or her dis­abil­ity. But, she con­tin­ued, they’re not ask­ing for much — just some help.

“We just want to have an­other place,” Mary-Ann said be­fore Jonathan chimed in: “And for oth­ers not to go through the same ex­pe­ri­ence we’ve gone through.”

MICHELLE BERG

Jonathan McLeod says a fire in­spec­tor said he wouldn’t let his cat live in the Saska­toon apart­ment that McLeod and his mother, Mary-Ann, call home. The McLeods say they want to move out of the cock­roach-in­fested, un­fur­nished suite but are hav­ing trou­ble find­ing a new home.

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