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Single Montreal mother complains her subsidized city apartment is mice-infested

Click to play video: 'Single mother upset over living conditions in Montreal social housing unit' Single mother upset over living conditions in Montreal social housing unit
WATCH: A single mother in Pointe St. Charles is calling out Montreal's municipal housing office for unacceptable living conditions. The woman says mice have overrun her apartment. But she complained that the office was slow to respond to her cries for help. Global’s Amanda Jelowicki reports. – May 14, 2021

Shena Kirton never imagined that when moving into a publicly-subsidized apartment in Pointe-Saint-Charles in November, 2019, she would be sharing the space with rodents.

“I was terribly worried everyday, it was so stressful,” said Kirton, a 36-year-old single mother on disability. “I have anxiety. I constantly have to worry about my son. The mice are running everywhere.”

Initially, she was happy to move into the two-bedroom space on Charon Street. But problems emerged just days after she moved in.

Kirton said mice chewed through boxes of food, costing her a lot to replace. The single mother found mice feces in her bed, bathroom, closet —  literally everywhere. They would defecate on her two-year-old son’s toys, which he would then put in his mouth.

He started getting sick, suffering from headaches, nosebleeds and rashes.

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“Living with mice, breathing them in, the pee and the poop, it is very dangerous and detrimental to our health,” Kirton said. “It was a constant worry. I was afraid for our lives.”

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Kirton repeatedly called Montreal’s municipal housing office for help. She says her calls were often ignored. She says occasionally the janitor would come to fix holes in the walls, but she claims he did a patchwork job. She said exterminators would also occasionally come, but they, too, never fixed the problem.

“I felt like I was alone and nobody cared. They were just leaving us there to die that is literally how I felt,” Kirton said.  “Because you are poor it sometimes seems like they don’t care.”

Kirton turned to a local support organization for help. They hired a lawyer to start putting pressure on the municipal housing office.

“Well you would think that it’s a city run building, you would think they would have to be just meet certain standards,” said Sue Hamilton, the coordinator of the Au Futur program for young mothers at the Jamaica Association of Montreal. “It is very shocking, especially at this point you would think the first time Shena reached out to the administrators at (the municipal housing office) they would have fixed the problem.”

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The municipal housing office told her in March she could transfer to another apartment. In the meantime, she moved into her mother’s cramped apartment, unable to handle the rodents anymore.

“Right now I am just basically sleeping on the floor with my son,” Kirton said.

Hamilton added, “We were hoping that the (office) would perhaps put Shena up in a hotel until they found an appropriate apartment for her.”

The municipal housing office told Global News it struggled exterminating the mice.

“Due to the difficulty in completely exterminating the mice, our Sanitation Department approved a request for a change of apartment. Madame has been in contact with her rental agent since the beginning of March for the transfer. We have provided Madam with all potential apartments in four areas that she has chosen. Of all these apartments, Madame chose only 3, which is not a lot because these apartments are not necessarily available, they are potential transfer options. We therefore suggested to Madam to provide us with more choices. And we have been waiting for her callback since April 26,” spokesman Mathieu Vachon said.

The spokesperson added they planned on contacting Kirton, and they hope to get her into a new space soon.

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