Our brothers’, sisters’ keepers
About 25 evicted tenants in old building on Cumberland Street find new accommodations by July 1
Well, the 150th anniversary celebrations have come and gone, albeit with mixed reviews.
But another very significant event came and went on the same day as Canada 150, seemingly unnoticed by most.
Thinking back to April and May, you will likely remember the announcement that about 25 tenants in an old building on Cumberland Street were to be evicted on July 1. The announcement was from Holland College. They were purchasing the property to build a new student residence
A lot of people were incensed. Apparently there was no plan for relocating the residents. It was evident that these people were among the most disadvantaged in the city — indeed in the Island.
Talking to politicians and people in real estate, it became evident that these “poorest of the poor” had not a leg to stand on.
Government showed little interest in changing things.
Worse, government statistics showed that there was virtually no rental housing available for any class of people let alone the least powerful or advantaged (1.6 per cent in Charlottetown last November)
The city was well aware of the situation — (the mayor works for Holland College so he left things for the deputy mayor to handle.)
They claimed there was nothing the city could do — even though the city’s Strategic Plan says the city will be working with other levels of government to resolve issues of housing.
The province expressed some interest in the problem but I have no evidence that they ever rolled up their collective sleeves — at least publicly.
Whether because of public pressure or out of a stricken conscience, Holland College got in gear and commissioned Della Parker of Parker Realty to help these worried people to find housing accommodation.
To make a long story short, it was nip and tuck but Ms. Parker and her firm did it.
By June 30, Parker had seen to it that all the would-be evicted tenants had a place to live.
More than that, most of the new accommodation found was of better quality that what they were moving from.
(There is one problem not resolved. The last I heard, the two businesses located in the old building had not found a place to set up shop.)
So what lessons are to be learned? That is a hard question to answer.
Certainly The Guardian and other media kept the key players’ feet to the fire for a good part of the time.
Hopefully, they can be counted on to do the same and more in future dire situations, which threaten the basic well being of the less fortunate.
A small, stirred-up group of citizens brought issues before the public as best they could. It seemed they were frustrated for the seeming lack of concrete results.
Yet, they undoubtedly had an influence on the final result.
Secondly, any suggestion that government is addressing the issues is a huge stretch of the truth.
There are several agencies, which in theory have a key role in situations such as this. I visited several of them. They want to help but their organizations are not much more than a shell. They have a couple of staff but virtually no resources to back them up.
Thirdly, it would appear that Holland College did not work from a position of principle. They had pretty much a free hand to do what they chose. The end result is at least partly to their credit.
But surely people, in a Davidand-Goliath battle like this should not be thrown to the lions. They need to have certain rights and an advocate who sees to it that they are not victimized simply to serve the wants and needs of the rich and powerful. Like it or not this is up to all three levels of government.
There are other lessons to be learned but I am not at all confident that most will do any more than to pass this off with the hope that no one will press them too hard on improving our readiness to tackle such issues.
But probably our most important lesson is, we are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
Seven properties in the area of Cumberland and Grafton street were affected by Holland College’s plan to build a new 80-bed residence across from the main campus.