‘I AM SAD­DENED TO SEE THIS’

PressReader - Tke Channel - ‘I AM SAD­DENED TO SEE THIS’
City by­law of­fi­cers have or­dered an Ot­tawa land­lord to re­move large posters from his Mur­ray Street prop­erty, de­pict­ing paint­ings of world lead­ers sit­ting on toi­lets with blunt and crude mes­sages that are aimed at the neigh­bour­ing Shep­herds of Good Hope.The posters show a se­ries of paint­ings by Ital­ian artist Cristina Gug­geri with lead­ers such as the Dalai Lama, An­gela Merkel, Barack Obama and Queen El­iz­a­beth sit­ting on toi­lets. On the posters, the words “What I see makes me $#!T” are added in large black type. Along the bot­tom, it says “Wow wow wow, The Great Ot­tawa Zoo …” An­other shows three bot­tles of wine with the words “Char­ity Pro­gram for Al­co­holics Only.”Gae­tan Lemieux, who owns five rental prop­er­ties on Mur­ray Street near the shel­ter, said he put up the seven posters be­cause he is tired of the sit­u­a­tion on the street. He said he is the only re­main­ing pri­vate prop­erty owner on the stretch of Mur­ray be­tween King Ed­ward Av­enue and Cum­ber­land Street, which in­cludes three build­ings used by Shep­herds. Over the years, he said, he has bought prop­er­ties from longterm res­i­dents who wanted to leave the street, but were un­able to sell.“The signs are there to ex­press, af­ter 35 years, the dis­sat­is­fac­tion with what is hap­pen­ing on the street. As a cit­i­zen, I can­not al­low this street to be de­stroyed by peo­ple who do not live here.”Lemieux, a re­tired se­nior econ­o­mist with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, said peo­ple from the shel­ter and its ser­vices reg­u­larly eat, vomit, defe­cate and uri­nate on his prop­er­ties and make tenants feel un­safe. He re­ferred to them as an “army of junkies.”He said Ot­tawa by­law of­fi­cials told him to re­move the signs or they would take them down and charge him. Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury con­firmed city by­law of­fi­cials acted af­ter re­ceiv­ing a com­plaint about the posters. Fleury said the city’s le­gal depart­ment is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the lan­guage on the posters.“I am sad­dened to see this,” Fleury said of the signs. “I don’t know why some­body would spend any en­ergy on that in­stead of be­ing part of the so­lu­tion.”Deirdre Frei­heit, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at Shep­herds, said the char­i­ta­ble so­cial ser­vices and home­less or­ga­ni­za­tion does “the best we can to be re­ally good neigh­bours.” She said they have an ex­cel­lent re­la­tion­ship with res­i­dents of the condo build­ing next door, meet­ing with them reg­u­larly to hear about and act on any con­cerns. Frei­heit said Lemieux “has not been open to hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with us” and claimed he has been abu­sive with staff and clients over the years.“I would be happy to meet with him,” she said. “If he would like to sit down and have a re­spect­ful con­ver­sa­tion, we would be more than happy to do that. It is un­for­tu­nate he feels this way. I un­der­stand there are con­cerns, but we need to work to­gether to try to re­solve them.” Gen­er­ally, she said, peo­ple in the neigh­bour­hood sup­port the or­ga­ni­za­tion and even vol­un­teer.Res­i­dents of the Shep­herds of Good Hope went about their busi­ness in the shadow of the posters Thurs­day, many ex­press­ing their anger at the mes­sages. “It’s morally de­grad­ing,” said Richard, who wouldn’t give his last name.Richard said he of­ten picks up trash from the side­walk in front of the rental units and has been thanked by the prop­erty owner for do­ing so. But he said the mes­sage from the posters was in­sult­ing.“If he wants to spew some­thing, he should do it some­where else,” Richard said, adding he was par­tic­u­larly of­fended by the use of the Queen’s im­age to at­tack the home­less.“None of those peo­ple (de­picted in the posters) have said any­thing bad about us.”Lemieux be­came the only pri­vate prop­erty owner on the block some­what by ac­ci­dent. He said he pur­chased prop­erty at 229 Mur­ray next to Shep­herds 35 years ago, not know­ing the neigh­bour­hood. He quickly de­cided he had made a mis­take, he said, but couldn’t sell the house.Sub­se­quently, neigh­bours who had lived there for years be­gan com­ing to him ask­ing him to buy their prop­er­ties so they could leave. He said he wanted to “gather those prop­er­ties to­gether to es­tab­lish a pres­ence of good cit­i­zen­ship so that maybe we can re­sist the as­sault.”He said he is only able to rent the prop­er­ties short-term with no leases and mainly to for­eign stu­dents or peo­ple in Ot­tawa on con­tracts. He said he has put up fences that have be­come ever higher over the years af­ter prop­erty has been de­stroyed, bikes have been stolen re­peat­edly and peo­ple have slept on bal­conies, vom­ited, defe­cated and uri­nated on the prop­er­ties. “I have tenants try­ing to sleep who are in rooms fac­ing the street.”He noted the owner of a gran­ite busi­ness on King Ed­ward re­ceived death threats af­ter start­ing a pe­ti­tion in which he said Shep­herds had be­come a can­cer on the neigh­bour­hood.“We the cit­i­zens are not in­vited to speak. We are cor­nered in si­lence.”Fleury said Shep­herds works hard to try to de­cen­tral­ize its ser­vices and now has pro­grams lo­cated around the city, in­clud­ing in Kanata.He said he hears con­cerns about drug users in the area, es­pe­cially near busy King Ed­ward Av­enue. Shep­herds, he said, is fo­cused on more sup­port­ive hous­ing and de­cen­tral­iz­ing its ser­vices.He sug­gested Lemieux take a pos­i­tive ap­proach.“Ev­ery­one is en­ti­tled to their own opin­ions,” he said. “But to tar­get an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is try­ing to do its best, that is try­ing to help very vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens — I don’t un­der­stand what goals he has. Are we in a bet­ter po­si­tion to­mor­row be­cause of (the signs)?”

A land­lord who owns five rental prop­er­ties on Mur­ray Street near the Shep­herds of Good Hope has been told to re­move these posters.

One Shep­herds of Good Hope res­i­dent has de­scribed nearby posters with mes­sages tak­ing aim at the shel­ter as “morally de­grad­ing.”

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