TCHC's handling of plumbing trouble stinks

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TORONTO – Single mom Abigail Gordon was forced out of her Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) apartment due to a flood not of her making six months ago.

Her Islington Ave. unit has been sitting in disrepair since.

Gordon’s nightmare started in mid-November, just 15 days before she was to deliver her second son by C-section. The 36-year-old said when she awoke at 2:45 a.m. to visit the bathroom, she found herself ankle-deep in feces-infested sewage water.

The pipes she shares with a few other apartments had backed up, causing her toilet and her bathtub to overflow.

After waiting more than four hours for TCHC’s call centre to send someone, a plumber came to allegedly fix the leak, along with cleaners who sucked up the water and the feces.

No matter. The personal support worker (PSW), who is desperately trying to get her nursing credentials and make something of her life, says she lost a cellphone, a laptop, her carpet, her drapes and all of the diapers and assorted other gifts she’d received at her baby shower, held just 10 days before.

“The apartment was reeking,” she said during a visit to the unit last week.

She also twisted her back and her ankle when she went sliding in the water en route to the bathroom.

She’s had her baby and has been living in one bedroom with her parents in their two-bedroom apartment. She says every time she asked when she could move back, building officials and other TCHC staff kept telling her the repairs would get done — that they just needed more time because they have “more important emergencies.” In February, she says she decided to start replacing the stuff she lost and make the apartment “livable again” — hoping she’d soon get a transfer to another apartment.

Her plan was to move in Feb. 19 — until she got a call from a neighbour on Feb. 16 advising her another feces-infested flood had occurred in her unit.

She lost everything she’d bought to replace what she had lost last November — a second laptop, carpet, draperies, pillows and bedding.

“The first repair had been botched and never done properly because this was worse,” she said.

When I visited the apartment last week, it was dark and dank and reeked of mould. Drawers had been pulled out and possessions moved by the contractors and not put back. An army of cockroaches scurried by us more than a few times.

But the most telling was the exposed pipes in the bathroom walls.

Desperate for help — meaning a transfer elsewhere — Gordon contacted her councillor, Rob Ford, in March. According to an e-mail exchange she provided to me, Ford put her in touch with Barry Thomas, TCHC’s Central Parliament Operating Unit manager.

He told her via e-mail on March 31 that her application (for a transfer) had been approved that morning and he would subsequently have to “kick it upstairs.

“I will let u know how it went with my director,” Thomas wrote, signing off with a “Keep in touch!” Since then nothing.

Rexdale Legal Clinic is pursuing a claim for loss and damages, as well as therapy for Gordon’s back, which is so sore it will make her work as a personal support worker at a retirement home difficult to do (when she returns from maternity leave). Gordon said she’s had to put off continuing her nursing studies at George Brown College until next January because of her lack of stable living arrangements.

Efforts to get comments from TCHC last week proved to be an insurmountable task.

New spokesman Lisa Murray claimed they can’t share personal information about a tenant without the “consent” of the tenant.

She subsequently suggested I hold my story because there were “details I don’t have” that will “impact my story.” When I informed Murray that it was impossible for Gordon to sign the form, send ID, scan all of it in and e-mail it to TCHC because she had no scanner, she was sick and had to access an outside venue to do so by bus — and I suggested consent be provided by phone, Murray altered her comments to “written consent” is required under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).

I did not hear back from her when I responded that I could not find anything in MFIPPA stipulating written consent.

I asked Gordon what Murray might mean by “details.” She said that even though she informed the building manager last May that she was taking time off from her nursing studies, the manager was lackadaisical about reassessing her rent — she has yet to do so — and is likely trying to blame her now for not increasing her rent sooner.

She told me after she met with me last week she cried like crazy.

“End of day I work very hard to save what I can,” she said. “Their behaviour is so inhumane.”


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