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Capreol senior still homeless four months after flood damaged her social housing apartment

But city says repairs of old housing units slowed by age of buildings, purchasing bylaw requirements

Pansy Halls has been sleeping on her daughter's couch for more than three months, and the mental and physical stress is starting to take a toll on the Sudbury senior.

Halls, 79, has been a resident at Coulson Court Senior Citizen Complex in Capreol, for 16 years. But on May 7, her apartment in the senior living facility was destroyed when a pipe in her bathroom burst.

"I was out for the day and when I came home, there was water in the hallway and my place was flooded," said Halls. "Everything was damaged -- the walls, the baseboards, the kitchen cabinets, the rugs."

If there was any silver lining, it's that Halls has insurance for her personal belongings damaged in the flood, though the tab on her $20,000 policy has been racking up with expenses like moving her furniture that was salvageable to a storage facility.

"When they were moving my stuff, my clothes fell into the water and had to be steam cleaned," said Halls.

Fortunately for Pansy, her daughter, Kim Proulx, lives just down the street from the seniors complex and was able to accommodate her.

"My mom has mobility issues so she needed a place where she could move around, where the bathroom was on the main floor," said Kim. "It's just been a really troublesome time for her. We thought she would be back within a month or so and now we're going on three months."

For the past three months, Pansy has been sleeping on a two-seat loveseat in her daughter's living room. While the physical pain has been wearing on Pansy, as she wakes up most mornings with a stiff back, it's the mental suffering that has been a real challenge to endure.

"I just feel that I'm a burden to my daughter and her family," said Pansy, fighting back tears. "This whole ordeal has affected me in a mental way as I do get very emotional quite often."

The 79-year-old woman just wants to get back into her own home, but getting a firm timeline for when she'll be able to return to the city-run social housing property has proved impossible so far.

"I've called the city, I've talked to the insurance adjuster, I've called the landlord-tenant board," said Halls. "No one has been much help to this point."

Cindi Briscoe, Greater Sudbury's manager of housing services, said she couldn't speak directly about Pansy's situation due to privacy regulations, but was able to shed some light as to why the repair job has been dragging as long as it has.

"As with all old buildings, when you open up the walls, sometimes you find other issues,” Briscoe said. “When you look at our social housing portfolio, a lot of it dates back to the '70s and '80s, so when you get into situations where there's an issue, you open up the wall and there's a bigger issue that you wouldn't have known of until you opened up the wall."

Social housing also has many more hurdles to clear when it comes to doing a repair job, she said, regardless of the size and scope of the work that has to be done. Purchasing bylaws require three quotes from contractors before starting any job, and these would be handled by the board of directors for the housing property that needs repair.

"It's not like with an independent landlord who can go out and hire who they want and get in there and start the job right away," said Briscoe. 

"Everything is very process-driven (with city-run social housing). There are multiple steps that need to happen, and again, if you're starting something and you find more issues you have to step back, you potentially have to get an engineer involved and get new specs on what has to be done. This is what we find happens in some of our buildings because of the age of them. When you open up a wall in a building that was built in the '70s or '80s, you now have to bring it up to 2019 standards."

Additionally, the city does not have a hands-on role when it comes to the repair of damaged units.

The Capreol Non-Profit Housing Corporation is not owned by the City.  It has its own Board of Directors which is responsible for all aspects of its operations," said Kelli Sheppard, city of Greater Sudbury communications.

"When property maintenance is required, the Capreol Non-Profit Housing Corporation Property Manager would follow a process that is outlined in their respective policies and by-laws as directed by their Board of Directors. The city has no role in maintenance issues that may occur."

Pansy's daughter, Kristen Halls, has been helping her mom along the way, and says that she can't understand how the repair work has taken this long.

"My mom has been homeless for almost four months now," said Kristen. "I don't know, there's contractors who build entire houses in four months, so I don't really know what's taking so long."

Pansy was told that her place would be move-in ready by Aug. 9. As of Aug. 15, the place was still nowhere close to being finished.

"I go over there every day to check and I just get depressed," said Halls. 

"I just want my life to get back to normal."


Matt Durnan

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