PENTICTON — Quick and with little warning, Friday was moving day at Three Gables in Penticton after a 48 hour evacuation order was issued Wednesday.
The B.C. Fire Commissioner condemned the low income complex citing fire safety concerns, giving everyone living there two days to pack up and go.
“I’m so frustrated, I just want to cry. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to turn,” says resident Irving Norman.
In total 17 residents have been forced out, but when you take a look inside it’s hard to fathom how anyone can live here.
Garbage coats the hallways, plywood replaces many doors, stains smatter the carpet and what looks like water or possibly mold is evident on the ceiling.
Norman has lived at Three Gables for the past three years. He says it wasn’t until about a year ago the living conditions plummeted.
“There’s been a lot of drug activity not just weed, [but] heroine, morphine, needles lying around on the floors and that too,”
Norman says he feared for this safety, and for the most part stayed in his room.
As for the reason he didn’t move out sooner, he says he simply couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.
The Randhawa family purchased the property in 1999. Owners weren’t available for comment, but Global Okanagan spoke with a family member.
Son, Jason Randhawa, doesn’t own the housing portion of the property, but owns the liquor store below the residences.
He admits the family received numerous notices from the local fire department citing problem areas that needed to be fixed.
He says the damage can be attributed to a few “bad apples” and “after we’d fix [anything] it’d get broken again.”
But residents sing a different tune.
“They rented a room to a minor with a non-functioning toilet, no hot water and mold growing all over the place,” says tenant ‘Dare’
“They won’t give me a cent. I just want my money back.”
Randhawa agrees his family hasn’t given tenants back any money, as the landlords are waiting to see the condition of the units before reimbursing anyone.
As for the fate of the building, the landlords are going to go inside after all the tenants are out, assess the damages and decide what to do from there.
Fixing up the existing structure or rebuilding are two options.
The 17 tenants have been offered emergency shelter at a Penticton church and the Kelowna Gospel Mission while they get their affairs in order.
Tenants we spoke with say they anticipate finding an affordable place to live will be difficult.