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Jodi Brown: Tawaak Housing tenants are organizing to fight landlord neglect

A tour of Melissa Prosper’s home. Video by Jodi Brown.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Melissa Prosper believes everyone deserves a clean, safe, affordable home. But she, and many other tenants of the Tawaak Housing Association, aren’t so lucky. 

The good news is, they’re beginning to organize and fight back.

Many of Tawaak’s tenants live in homes in Halifax, Dartmouth and other Nova Scotia towns. Many of its apartments don’t meet safety standards and badly need major repairs. But fear of speaking out prevents the tenants from getting help. 

Their landlord blames the problems on shrinking government funding, and believes that things will slowly get better once negotiations with the province are completed.

With a one percent vacancy rate in the city of Halifax, people are afraid they will become homeless so speaking publicly is something most stay away from.  

Melissa hopes to change that by bringing everyone together on Facebook, at the Tawaak Tenants Association, and soon after in person, with a meeting for all Tawaak Tenants, family, friends, and supporters, to share stories and build courage for others to speak up. 

The Facebook group is growing, and people are coming forward each day, although some still prefer to private message and stay anonymous. Melissa hopes to announce a meeting date and a location soon for everyone to meet in person.

I spoke with a few tenants, and here’s what Chantel had to say “I called 311 to report a problem with the fire alarms, Tawaak office staff said they would fix them, but we just had a fire and the detector did not go off. They are putting my five year old’s life in danger, my life, and everyone’s in this building.”

“There’s black mould beneath the floorboards. My rent is $545, and I’m made to pay cash. Some months they make me pay more, they’re now taking over $100 a month off me. I’m sick of the bullying, the lies and the stealing,” she says.

I am a single mother breaking the cycles of abuse, only to be abused by the one organization that is supposed to help. You know the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, well, here I am, waiting to become another statistic.”

“Things will only change if we change them. I’m sick of having to fight for the rights we so deserve. We’ve lost heat and hot water too many times to count. I was unable to lock the door for months. The mould is only getting worse and now weird sounds are humming from the walls. There is a rodent problem, nothing ever gets fixed and no empathy or compassion is shown from the parties in charge of Tawaak Housing.”

Another tenant, who asked to stay anonymous, says she’s sharing her apartment with rats for the past month. 

“There’s a hole it’s pretty big underneath my tub so there is real danger of eventually falling through. The plumber made another hole in the wall where I can see downstairs now. He only taped the hole back up. The hole is near my toilet, which makes me scared to use the bathroom, I have rats in my apartment and that’s how they are getting in. They have caught 10 rats so far this month. I’ve even been hallucinating feeling like the rats are crawling in my mattress underneath me, I’m going nuts here. I woke up from a dream that I was being bitten today. Luckily I awoke to my cat lying next to me.”

The newly formed Tawaak Tenants Association has issued this statement;  

Tawaak Housing Association was initially created out of a service gap and need in the urban setting to support a marginalized population, low-income Indigenous families.”

Rather than doing their work of building a safe and healthy transition for our community to adjust to the city, and advocating for social equity for us, Tawaak Housing Association has lost sight of their core mission, vision and values of supporting vulnerable people.”

What has transpired over the years is they have further created an unsafe relationship with Indigenous families further marginalizing and harming an already vulnerable population.”

We are deeply dissatisfied with this organization’s harmful negligence; we feel betrayed by their inadequate services and rather than being helped we are further harmed by Tawaak Housing Association and their staff.

A letter to the minister responsible for Housing Nova Scotia, and to Tawaak Housing Association board members is being drafted asking for the following:

1 – Asking executive director Brian Dezagiacomo to resign along with his staff.

2 – Third party inspections done on all Tawaak homes and repairs completed this year, 2020. Funding from government shouldn’t 3 be spread out over so many years. The homes need repairs now, it’s a health and safety issue.

3 – A list of all properties owned by Tawaak Housing Association for maintenance tracking purposes for the newly formed Tawaak Tenants Association

4 – There is no accountability with the Nova Scotia government and nonprofits. An audit (forensic) to be carried out on Tawaak Housing Association.

5 – An audit to be carried out on the Nova Scotia Government for their operations and processes to handle non-profits.

6 – Both financial and maintenance reports for the past 10 years.

7 – Stop the harassment and bullying.

8 – A copy of the Tawaak Housing Association constitution

9 – A meeting with Tawaak Housing Association board members to start a new relationship, to work together and come up with solutions moving forward to better the lives of Tawaak Housing Association communities.

Check out their Facebook group, become a supporter and stand with Tawaak tenants for their rights and all tenant rights in Nova Scotia. 

We all deserve a clean, safe, affordable home.

See also: Jodi Brown: After five years of government promises people on income assistance end up with very little

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One Comment

  1. I believe that the Chief’s should step in. It is our people that are tenants in this most deplorable housing,they never kept up with repairs it was always bandaid work. They did receive millions to do repairs but instead they are living in very elegant places and driving new cars. With their pay is up and over a bankers rate. God please hear our people make them step down fire them and be accountable for all the money’s they received over the years they been in there. They have to be accountable and stop blaming the government for not enough funding cause every 800 can fix problems such as new doors windows,siding no excuse girls. They been sitting to comfortable way to long. It’s time they get a good boot out of this system and have families live comfortably and not worry about any rats knawing at them while sleeping.

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