Seniors “living in fear” at west-side apartment building

Walking down a long hallway on the main floor of Steeves Manor, located on Wallace Street near Jericho Park, the stale stench of marijuana and cigarette smoke is overwhelming.

Also noticeable is a trail of brown spots on the tiled floor that begins in the lobby and ends in a pool in the elevator. It appears someone spilled their coffee. “No, it’s probably blood,” surmises a resident playing tour guide that October day.

Blood splatter has become such a common occurrence at the 190-unit, three-storey housing complex that the 50-year-old disabled resident simply steps around the stains. Life has changed for the residents of Steeves, which until several years ago provided safe subsidized independent housing for seniors and adults with physical disabilities. Rent at Steeves is based on 30 per cent of a tenant’s monthly income.

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The blood is just one of a litany of complaints the seniors have against some of the newer tenants.

Several years ago, the provincial Ministry of Housing began moving the homeless, and drug and alcohol addicts, many with mental health issues, into the housing complex to live alongside frail seniors and disabled residents.

With the exception of a resource worker, who the ministry says is onsite three days a week, there is no staff on duty the remaining four days or in the evenings. The seniors interviewed for this story wonder why single room accommodation hotels in the Downtown Eastside have 24-hour staff to help with its hard-to-house residents, but Steeves Manor does not.

The seniors now fear for their safety, which is why they didn’t want their names published in the paper, and avoid the hallways and elevators when alone.

Nighttime can be a living hell, they say. Several residents mentioned one regular disturbance involving a man who pulls the fire alarm and races up and down the hallways knocking on doors screaming, “Fire.” At first, some wheelchair-confined residents struggled to leave their beds and suites, but now simply lie there, say their friends. This same man apparently also knocks on doors and turns doorknobs to see if he can gain access to other resident suites.

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What used to be the common room, where residents gathered to socialize and watch TV, is often used as a party room where the new tenants gather to drink and smoke marijuana with their non-resident friends. It’s a party paid for by taxpayers, the seniors claim.

Other concerns include the new residents regularly inviting “their binner friends” in to spend the night, with their grocery carts, which is where the recent bedbug infestation is believed to have originated. Loaning security swipe cards out to non-residents to gain 24-hour access to the building is also common, and for the first time in the complex’s 34-year history, mice and rats are a major problem.

Equally problematic, according to residents, are the male tenants who suffer from substance abuse and bring home women to party, which often ends in drunken, screaming brawls. Alcohol-fueled brawls between the men are also routine, the tenants say, which probably explains the blood splatter.

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