YARMOUTH, N.S. –
Eighty-three-year-old Murray Robicheau was excited about getting his picture in the newspaper, but it would have been better if it were for another reason.
Robicheau was among the residents who were displaced for the day from Beacon Terrace on Aug. 16. The Terrace is a 36-unit seniors’ apartment building on Beacon Street in Yarmouth.
The Department of Community Services and the Western Regional Housing Authority say tenants of the building were notified on Aug. 13 that they would have to leave the building from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 16 due to some spraying that was going to be happening inside the building to rid the building of a flea issue.
But on Aug. 16 some people were questioning why the Western Regional Housing Authority, which is responsible for the building, didn’t offer an alternate location for some of the displaced seniors to go to for the day.
Some seniors spent the day with family and friends, but some others – who didn’t have a place to go to – went to the mall or other stores to wander around and pass the time. At least one tenant opted to sit outside the apartment building for the day.
One tenant, who didn’t want her name used in print, collected money from some residents, and put in money herself, to rent a room at the nearby Beacon Church, where displaced seniors could wait until the apartment building was reopened. She said it cost $60. But on Thursday morning she said not many seniors had come to the rented room because there was no food available. She didn’t have the money to supply food.
“I have a breathing problem,” she said, pausing a couple of times while walking up the hill from the apartment building to the church. She said she herself had not seen any widespread flea problem within the building and she felt the housing authority should have offered a place for displaced seniors to go.
Yarmouth resident Shirley O’Hearn was also bothered by the fact the housing authority didn’t have an organized place for the seniors. She brought Murray Robicheau, her brother-in-law, to her house.
“But there’s a couple of older folks out at Walmart, sitting there,” she said. “I had asked if they had a place to go and they said no, we’re going to Walmart.”
She said she tried coaxing another senior to come to her house for the day, but also said she couldn’t take everybody in. O’Hearn felt bad for those who weren’t sure where they should go.
“I think housing should have had a room with a TV and a meal when they’re doing something like this. That’s eight hours, that’s too long for seniors,” she said, saying residents didn’t have a choice. They had to leave. She said if residents were only being displaced by a few hours that would have been different.
“But eight hours is too long,” she repeated.
Robicheau said having to leave his apartment for the day had made him feel anxious for the past couple of days. He’s been living in the building for over 30 years.
“With my age, I’m a nervous man,” he said. “It worries me about stuff like that.”
The Western Regional Housing Authority says it takes concerns raised by its tenants very seriously. “We make considerable efforts to address issues in a timely manner while ensuring the needs of tenants are considered in the process,” the authority said when contacted by the Tri-County Vanguard.
The housing authority said the treatment of the building, which included all common areas, was needed because fleas had been detected in some of the units. The work was carried out by Orkin Pest Control.
“Residents were advised (Aug. 13) that they, as well as any pets (cats are allowed in the building), would be required to vacate the building while treatment was underway. As part of our regularly scheduled visits to the property, staff were on site at the building (Aug. 15) and available to address any questions or concerns from residents,” Heather Fairbairn, a media relations advisor with the Department of Community Services explained on the housing authority’s behalf.
“During these discussions, Housing agreed that an alternative location could be made available for those who may need it,” she said. Although from this residents this newspaper spoke to that didn't seem to materialize. She said the housing authority will pay the rental booking that was looked after by one of the tenants.
“We apologize for any concern or inconvenience this work may have caused for our tenants,” Fairbairn included in an email response. “Circumstances requiring all tenants to vacate a building for several hours are very rare; however, should a similar situation arise in the future, we commit to making arrangement to accommodate residents at a suitable location in the community.”