Saskatchewan seniors home afflicted by drug use, vandalism

Darlene Goethals says she no longer feels safe in her government housing building that’s meant for people 55 and older. 

The senior says someone has been defecating in the elevator at the High Park building in Moose Jaw, Sask., while others have been spotted using drugs and abandoning needles in stairwells.

“Unless I have a family member or my friends come get me, that’s the only time I can leave my apartment,” Goethals said, with tears welling in her eyes. 

“I know there’s a lot of people that have some issues in our building, and mixing elderly with mental health and alcoholism doesn’t mix.”

Saskatchewan’s Opposition NDP invited Goethals and two other seniors to the legislature on Monday to share their concerns about the building. 

Meara Conway, the NDP social services critic, said the apartments are meant for people 55 and older, but those under that age have since been allowed to live there. 

She said people struggling with mental health and addictions are living in the building, but that there are no supports to help them.

It has resulted in safety issues, Conway said. 

“A lot of them say that a lot of long-time residents have moved out,” she said. “They say they would move out if they could afford to move out, so it’s not a good situation.”

Brent Patterson, who has lived in the building for more than 10 years, said safety issues have led to staff locking the common area at 9 p.m. every night. 

He added the doors from the outside also lock every night at 8 p.m., and visitors can’t get buzzed in past that time. 

“Lots of people say it’s like jail,” Patterson said. 

“I just feel sorry for people that don’t have a TV or cable. It’s being isolated — you go to your room and sort of stay there. It’s pretty sad.”

He said some units have cockroaches and ventilation issues. Many also haven’t seen their tenant manager since July. 

Patterson said the seniors reached out four years ago to Greg Lawrence, their representative in the legislature, but nothing has come of it. 

“I don’t blame Moose Jaw Housing, but I do blame the premier of Saskatchewan,” he said. “Like, do something.”

Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky told reporters Monday he’s going to look into the problems at the building. 

He couldn’t provide details on when people under 55 with mental health needs were allowed to live there. 

“I’m not sure if I can think of a situation where we’ve strictly opened it up,” Makowsky said. 

“I’d like to look into this situation a little bit more if this is what’s happening.”

He said the province has increased funding for supportive housing units in an effort to respond to some of these issues. 

Goethals said she would leave the building if she could afford to. 

“I can’t (move),” she said. “And I really like High Park because I really have very close friends there who do feel like family.”

Conway said the province needs to thoughtfully manage housing, which includes making sure people are in appropriate spaces for their level of care and needs. 

“There is no thought going into this, and we’re seeing the results of many of those crises intersecting, growing and spilling over, rather than working to prevent those crises,” she said.

“It’s a lose-lose situation right now, in my view.” 

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