DESPERATE TO MOVE
Saskatoon family wants out of ‘bad’ apartment
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.”
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.