Meadow Lake man forced from his home

Meadow Lake resident Wesley Smith was recently asked to move out of his home. Smith, who relies on social assistance, was considering moving into the Door of Hope’s Hope Centre, but is uncertain where his next permanent residence will be.

by Phil Ambroziak

Wesley Smith is a man without a home.

That is the reality Smith – who for many years shared a house with his mother and two sisters – had to face Nov. 15 when he found himself evicted by the Meadow Lake Housing Authority.

“Meadow Lake Housing is kicking me out of my place at 612 1st Ave. East and they won’t help me find another place,” Smith said when interviewed last week.

This news was originally brought to Smith’s attention shortly after his mother was admitted to Northland Pioneer Lodge and his sisters moved to a group home in Ile-a-la Crosse. According to Smith’s friend and neighbour Bill Pennell, however, the method in which Smith was notified of the eviction was wrong. Pennell is also worried about his friend’s well-being, stating Smith is unable to afford another place to live.

“Wesley is 51 years of age and has intellectual disabilities,” Pennell explained. “On Oct. 18, he received a home visit from Barb Arnold of the Meadow Lake Housing Authority. She advised him he had to vacate his home by Nov. 15, but no written notice was provided.”

Because his name does not appear on the lease, written notice is not a requirement. For this same reason, Housing is not required to find Smith an alternate unit.

“I was told the house was not made for a single person – it’s for a family to live in,” Smith said.

“Wesley is very upset and does not know where he will go,” Pennell added. “It’s also not right to make someone leave their home in the wintertime.”

Pennell went on to stress more affordable housing should be made available for people with disabilities.

“I’ve tried to contact them (Housing) on Wesley’s behalf, but I can’t get a straight answer,” he said. “They won’t say there is no housing available, only that there is no ‘suitable’ housing available. I understand there have been concerns in the past with regard to the cleanliness of the house, but there were four people living there at the time. That sort of thing can’t be blamed entirely on Wesley.”

Pennell also noted Multiworks Corporation is willing to consider providing supports and services to Smith once he has a place to live.

“Community Living Division has been contacted for services as well,” he added.

One solution Smith considered was moving into a room at the Door of Hope’s Hope Centre.

“I was trying to get a room at the Door of Hope, but there is nothing in my price range,” he said. “Most other places in town are at least $600 or $700 a month.”

Smith receives $338 per month in social assistance to cover rent, plus an additional $355 for a monthly living allowance.

“The least expensive room at the Door of Hope was $485, which means he would have to use $147 of his food money to help cover his rent,” Pennell said. “What’s the point of him moving into a place he can’t afford?”

Arnold would not comment on the matter other than to say it is policy for such matters to be addressed by Ministry of Social Services officials. Kelly Moore, the ministry’s director of community and client services, would not comment on Smith’s situation in particular, but did say the ministry is committed to ensuring vulnerable people have access to a series of programs and services.

“The ministry funds a continuum of residential services for people with intellectual disabilities including group homes, supported living programs and approved private service homes,” she said. “We also partner with a number of community based organizations to work with clients in an effort to address their needs.”

Smith said this entire experience has turned his life upside down.

“I don’t know what I will do,” he said. “I will just have to try to get by with what I’ve got.”

 

 

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