Senior faces losing special friend in trade-off for affordable home
When Stan Parsons lived in Bridgeland, he was greeted by residents who walked past his apartment building where he sat each day of the summer: “Hi Stan. Hi Jellybean.”Parsons, 84, and his seven-yearold Labradoodle affectionately nicknamed Jelly were also wellknown in the local dog park, just as they are in their current community of Crescent Heights.The senior credits his companion with getting him out into the community. In fact, Jellybean has been a connector that has helped him form friendships with people who now make up his support network.“Maybe if I didn’t have Jellybean, I’d sit here and wouldn’t go out some days,” he said in an interview. “I get up at 5 in the morning, I take him out at 6 to the park … and then I take him again, maybe around 9, I go with him with the ball and the thrower thing. He just loves chasing the ball.”But even with help from some supporters, Parsons is facing a challenge that has so far been insurmountable: finding an affordable home for him and his dog.The senior has been told to vacate his current rental apartment by the end of February — an order he says came after he let a repair person into the building to fix the washer, and also let a postal worker in to deliver the mail.So far, every property manager he has called has turned him away, citing policies banning all pets or larger dogs.“I phoned one place over on Edmonton Trail, they had a sign for rent,” he said. “And everything was fine until I mentioned the dog … and I said, ‘how come everybody hates dogs all of a sudden?’ He says, ‘I love dogs.’ It kind of threw me a bit, because if you love dogs, let a dog in.”Parsons faced similar barriers when he moved from his home of 36 years in Bridgeland after his sister died and the rent became unaffordable. With the help of a friend, he eventually found a place in Crescent Heights. He lived there for about a year before moving into his current building across the street, where he finds himself searching again after only about six months.His struggle to find an affordable home for him and his pet is a reflection of a broader problem for seniors, said Ann Toohey, scientific co-ordinator of the Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging at the University of Calgary.In her doctoral research, she looked at ways seniors in Calgary find to stay within their community as they grow older, particularly those in more disadvantaged circumstances, such as being on a fixed income or being socially isolated.“Housing came up quite regularly, especially when I was speaking with those service providers who really focus on the facets of our older population who are struggling and for whom I heard pets described as things like a lifeline, a reason to get out of bed every day,” Toohey said.Dogs, she added, are a natural way of creating opportunities for social engagement.“And then just the sense of purpose and meaning that a pet, whether it’s a dog or cat, can bring into someone’s life, in addition to just having companionship,” she said.Parsons has outlived most of his family, including four siblings and two sons, and has no relatives in Calgary. He not only sees Jelly as his family, but as a part of him.“I live just with Jellybean,” he said. “He cheers me up some days, and we go for lots of walks and stuff like that. I go to the drugstore over here and they let me take him right in the drugstore.”The proximity of that drugstore, where the helpful staff know him, and of his doctor’s office down the street, are reasons he is hoping to stay in the same area of the city. Parsons said severe arthritis makes it hard for him to walk very far.He added he has been told there are no subsidized housing locations in Calgary that accept dogs. Some people have hinted that he should get rid of his pet to make his housing situation easier. But getting rid of Jelly would be like parting with a family member.“That’s the same as them saying, ‘if you had a kid with you, get rid of the kid,’” he said. “It’s the same thing to me.”He wishes more landlords would consider accepting tenants like him and Jelly on a trial basis. The animal’s friendly and gentle demeanour means “he never gets mad,” even when another dog takes his ball at the park, Parsons said.Gerry Baxter, executive director of the Calgary Residential Rental Association, said part of the issue for landlords is that pets can cause damage. Some buildings also have pet-free policies in recognition of people with allergies.But, he added, there are landlords who allow pets in their building.“The best advice I can give anybody with a pet is shop around, because there are landlords who will allow pets,” he said.Parson’s friend, Loralee Nisbet, who is helping him with his housing search, said Jelly is the senior’s connection to the community, and the reason he and the good-natured dog were always greeted by name on their Bridgeland street.“It’s his companionship,” she said. “I think a lot of seniors face isolation, and just having Jelly there …. I couldn’t imagine Stan being happy without him there.”That’s the same as them saying, ‘if you had a kid with you, get rid of the kid.’ It’s the same thing to me.
Stan Parsons, 84, is struggling to find an affordable home for himself and his seven-year-old Labradoodle, Jelly, whom he credits with helping him form friendships with people in the Crescent Heights community. He was told to vacate his rental apartment by the end of February.
Stan Parsons says property managers have so far turned him away due to policies banning all pets or larger dogs.
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