Left out in the cold

Danielle Higdon
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Families face homelessness after entire apartment building receives eviction notices

Eleven families in Wabush are facing homelessness after being served eviction notices on Dec. 1.

The current owners have sold the apartment building to a contracting business and have given its residents until February to vacate the building.

The residents of 11 apartment units in this building located in Wabush are facing homelessness after being served eviction notices. Mealy Mountain Realty, who owned the building for several years, has sold the property to Dexter Mining Inc who will use the building to house its employees.

 

Since some of the current tenants work for the company who has just purchased the property, not all those who live in the 14 apartment units are being forced to leave – only those who are not employed by the new owners.

Domico Cabot, a tenant of the building for the last two years, lives with his two small daughters and his wife. He says the news of the eviction has left his family, and many others, devastated.

“Everyone is in panic mode,” he said. “It’s a lot of people that have to find somewhere to go.”

Mr. Cabot says that given the housing shortage in Labrador West, he fears his family will be unable to find somewhere to go before they must leave.

“My biggest concern is finding somewhere else,” she said. “If it was just myself and my wife we could go to a boarding home, but with two small children that isn’t an option.”

He says that he has been searching diligently for a place since receiving the eviction notice, but to no avail.

“I’ve called 19 landlords,” he said. “So far there is nothing. Two considered putting my name on a list, but that’s it.”

Mr. Cabot says she does not blame the current owners of the building for wanting to sell and make a profit, but she feels the situation could have been handled differently.

“I do feel that the people who bought it didn’t have to evict us in winter,” she said. “They could have given us more than three months considering the housing shortage here and considering February is one of the coldest months.”

Mr. Cabot says that for his family, leaving Labrador West may be their only option.

“I has to be considered,” he said. “I have no other option. We are from Goose Bay; we have family there. But do I leave my job and work for half my wages and barely survive? We’ve also discussed moving out of the province, which is sad that we’re being forced to consider moving out of the province we both grew up in.”

Lorne Winters, an employee with the Iron Ore Company of Canada, has lived in Labrador West in the apartment building for the last year, working to provide for his small daughter who lives in Goose Bay with her mother, who he is no longer in a relationship with.

Mr. Winters was direct when asked what his greatest concern is.

“Being homeless,” he said. “There’s nothing around here to rent. I’ve called numerous people, some realtors and some just people who are renting, and there’s just nothing to find.”

He says that the one place he did find was not an option for him financially.

“I found one and it was 2000 dollars a month,” he said. “And the owner said that he had been speaking with contractors who were willing to pay 2800 dollars a month. I just can’t compete with that.”

Mr. Winters says that the whole experience has taken its toll on him mentally.

“I thought that by coming here I would be set for life,” he said. “Honestly, I probably would have been better off working for a contractor simply because they provide you with a place to stay.”

Despite the stressful situation, he says he is not willing to give up his job.

“For myself, the worst case scenario is I’ll have to sell all my belongings and sleep in my truck,” he said. “What I’m making here allows me to provide for my daughter, so I don’t see leaving as an option. If I have to store some of my things and sleep in my truck, at least she will have what she needs.”

Karen Oldford, co-chairwoman of the Labrador West Housing and Homelessness Coalition, says that the eviction is putting added stress on an already detrimental situation.

“The eviction is terrible,” she said. “Any time a family loses a home it’s a terrible situation. We believe everyone in our community has the right to have a home to call their own, that’s why we formed the organization.”

She says that the issue is one that must be resolved.

“We won’t be happy until everyone has a home to call their own and that’s what we continue to work towards,” she said.

Ms. Oldford says that legally, the eviction meets the set regulations but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s acceptable.

“The landlord tenants act is what governs the eviction,” she said. “And the new regulations do allow eviction with a three month notice.”

Due to recent changes in the landlord tenant act, even the winter season doesn’t amount to a valid argument.

“A long time ago there used to be a clause that said you could not be evicted in Labrador in the winter,” said Ms. Oldford. “But that was changed when the notice period was extended to three months.”

Ms. Oldford says that the issue is one that is being raised with local and provincial leaders, government, the media and affiliated organizations. She remains hopeful that a solution can be found, despite working to create change in the Labrador West housing market since 2007 with less than ideal outcomes.

“I’m really hopeful that they will be able to find a solution,” she said. “The clock is on now, we’ve got three months to find one. We know how important this is and we are going to continue to work and strive towards a solution, but it is a challenge.”

Ms. Oldford says there are many factors that influence what can be done in Labrador West with regards to housing.

“If the bottom drops out of the commodities market tomorrow and ore goes back to the way it was in 2003 or earlier, we could see everything come to a grinding halt. So when an investor looks at where they are going to put their money, we’re not as safe of an investment as other places in the province and country,” she said.

Regardless, she believes that Labrador West needs a change.

“Our community can not afford to lose even one worker due to lack of housing,” she said.

Organizations: Iron Ore Company of Canada, Labrador West Housing and Homelessness Coalition

Geographic location: Labrador West, Wabush, Goose Bay

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