Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Loss Of A Neighbour

We lost a neighbour this week. The family was told their home would be closed, and they had to be out by Friday. Apparently the City came by to have a look at the house regarding an issue with a sewage leak in the basement. I never went into the neighbours home, and never saw exactly what the issues were. I was told the City was closing the house as of Friday afternoon and they had to be out by then.
Our neighbours did not choose to re-locate, they were told to leave. After complaints to the landlord fell on deaf ears, the house was finally in such disrepair that it had to be closed by the City. The house they had been living in for the past few years was no longer to be their home. Our neighbours had a right to complain about the conditions of the house, and now I guess they have also been given the right to be homeless, as they have not yet secured a new place to live.
A landlord ignored calls from a tenant. He ignored his obligation to provide a safe and healthy environment. I know the landlord has been to the house several times in the past few years, including being in the basement last week. So, it is not like he was unaware of the conditions of his property. He continued to collect rent for a house in disrepair. And he let a family live in unsafe conditions until the City finally shut it down.
Now our block has one less family on it, and an uninhabitable house, because a landlord chose not to take care of his property. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The New Face Of "Big Brother"

Did you read the George Orwell book '1984' when you were younger? I did. I knew all about the evils of Governments when I was younger. I eagerly fought the take-over of 'Big Brother' watching our every move. I even held out on getting a Safeway Collector Card, because it was just another ploy that could be used to track our movements.
As the years and decades went on, our lives have become more and more public. We use debit cards instead of cash, we are on camera every time we enter a bank, get on a bus, take a cab, and so much more. Every now and again we are reminded of that book from our youth, and the thought of Big Brother coming down on us, just that much more.
The City Councillors are talking about using surveillance cameras on our public streets in an effort to keep us safer. Again, my thoughts go to 'Big Brother'. Except this time, I am reminded that the book George Orwell wrote depicted a time when Big Brother watched your every move, including every corner of your private homes. We are a long way from the invasions of privacy depicted in the book.
So now, I think about my City, and what the City Councillors are considering. I am at the point where the City should do whatever it can to keep its Citizens safe. If that means putting a camera down my backlane, and another one on my front street, go ahead. Mount those cameras. Have the camera feed available to the 911 operators. Let the 911 operator who took the call from the woman on Redwood, who thought her hoouse was being broken into, check what can be seen from the view of the camera. Maybe they would be able to verify a crime was being committed, and send informed officers to the residence. Or maybe they would be able to see the people beating on the resident who was simply locked out of his home.
Don't stop at just the bad areas of town, but put the cameras everywhere. Let the emergency responders view the footage as they are on their way to the scene. Get an eye on the situation when the issue is first called in, instead of when the troops arrive, or don't. Maybe our 2nd murder of the year could have been downgraded to a lesser evil with a few camera and some follow-up.
I am just one person, with one opinion, on one street in the North End.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Sunday Afternoon Walk

I went for my regular backlane walk on Sunday afternoon. It was not as bitterly cold as it had been on Saturday. There was a light snow falling, and a bit of a breeze, but for the most part it was a nice winter day if you dress for it.
The snow plows had been down the back lanes earlier in the morning, so everyone was out in the lanes shovelling out their driveways. So, along with our garbage walk, my husband and I were able to stop and talk to the neighbours as we walked down the lanes. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, getting a bit of a workout as they cleared snow. They were all aware of the murder that took place just a few streets over. In fact, as we walked down the lanes, a police car was slowly making its way down the lane following a constable, who seemed to be looking for something. They went along with their business, and we went along with ours.
One of the back lane shovellers was a landlord, who was out clearing slow. He expressed his concern for the neighbourhood, saying only in Canada can it get this bad, where there is no punishment for crimes, especially youth crimes. He also commented on one of the boarded houses. He said it was a negative image for the neighbourhood, as well as lost revenue for the owner.
As our walk started, my husband found a knife in the lane. He was wondering if it would be an item of interest to the Police. While we were out walking, we took the opportunity to walk over to the crime scene on Redwood, as there were still police cars parked in the area protecting the investigation. The knife was mentioned to the Police, and we were informed that they were not looking for a knife in relation to the murder. At that time, it was not publicized that the person was beated to death. We thanked the officers for their time, and went on our way. Sometimes a kitchen knife is just a kitchen knife, but you don't know unless you ask.
I was thinking about the way I approach police when I go toward their car, or how I react when they drive by. I remove my hood, and lower my scarf. I want to make sure I do not appear to be concealing anything. If I have sun glasses on, they come off. When police drive by, I make a point of looking at them and waving, with a friendly smile, ensuring my face is showing. All too often, in this neighbourhood especially, people go down the street with hoods up and faces concealed. Even in the summer, it is often hard to tell who is passing you on the road. But for me, I try to stay friendly, and let people know who I am as I pass them. This is all part of making my part of the world a neighbourhood, and not a 'hood'.
We have some good neighbours, people who care about their property, and the area. These good neighbours are home owners and landlords alike. And we are all just doing our little bit in making this part of the world a good place.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Landlords And Neighbourhood Responsibility

I had a neighbour drop by last night. Apparently the landlord is not fixing an issue in the house. Two weeks ago it was reported to the landlord that raw sewage was leaking in the basement. So far nothing has been done to correct the issue. The furnace did get fixed for the family, so they have heat now, but they still have raw sewage leaking, and pooling in their basement.
How long should it take to have a raw sewage problem repaired. And when the landlord was in their basement, just a few days ago, regarding the furnace, why did he still let the issue continue? And why did the neighbour wait until last night to ask me for assistance in correcting the issue?
Another landlord on the street seems to house criminals. Every time we manage to have one criminal removed another moves in. One has to wonder where the landlord advertises for tenants. The last one to leave had a criminal record longer than my arm. I know, because the person threw their court papers in the garbage out back and I found them. There were 43 charges listed. Some were traffic offences, but some of the charges were for serious stuff. The person started in the Youth Justice System and has stuck with a life of crime, living a few doors down from me for a few years. I did not actively work to have this person removed, but I sure am glad they are gone.
Other landlords do little to maintain houses, or ensure their tenants are not disturbing others.
When are we going to start holding landlords responsible for maintaining their houses, and maintaining a safe neighbourhod?