We referred to them as the city’s forgotten apartments. A pair of decrepit hovels visible from the mayor’s office in city hall.
The first thing you noticed was the gaping holes where the ceilings had fallen away.
Patches of paint which had not yet floated to the floor cling tentatively to the walls.
In other areas, vast expanses of paint blistered like badly burned skin.
Missing tiles in one of the showers had been replaced with duct tape and garbage bags.
The remnants of a skylight were stuffed with a blanket and when it rained, water dripped to the floor and down the front stairs.
When this corner exposed those units in January of 2016 they were home to four tenants, seemingly off the radar of several departments at city hall.
Links to the trio of items written about those apartments and what might have been in the way of affordable housing back in 2016 can be found at the end of this item.
We reference these residences because how many other out-of-sight, out-of-mind units can be found up and down the Talbot Street core?
For many of us, we’ve settled into a pandemic dictated routine where our days are punctuated with Zoom meetings interspersed with live-streamed gatherings, exponentially increasing our screen time. Leaving us to wonder how much of this will pivot over to the new reality? But what happens when one of these feeds fails or the audio stream is so out of whack it is impossible to follow along? It has happened twice this month with city council: once with a reference committee meeting dealing with community grants and again this week with the scheduled council meeting.
Although one resident remains hospitalized, the Jan. 26 fire at Caressant Care, Bonnie Place in St. Thomas is being called “a perfect case” where the sprinkler system worked, firefighters were on the scene within four minutes and staff and residents had participated in a practice fire drill less than three months previous. The late-evening blaze sent seven people to hospital, including four residents, two staff and a firefighter. All have been released with the exception of one resident who remains in critical condition. But, what if that blaze had, instead, broken out in either one of a pair of facilities that appear to have fallen through various cracks?Continue reading →
On any given night, anywhere from a dozen to 18 of the city’s most vulnerable citizens lay down their heads in bed bug infested rooms at a dilapidated facility wanting for even the most basic of housekeeping efforts. Their daily menu, as aptly described by lawyer advocate Elena Dempsey, is appalling not appealing. And now, we find out these residents of Walnut Manor will not even benefit from the simple comfort of knowing their long-past-the-best-before-date hovel will be equipped with a life-saving sprinkler system. Why is it other residential care facilities in St. Thomas are mandated to install sprinkler systems by the end of the year and yet this independent supportive living home operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland is exempt from this regulation? Why is it, once again, the residents of Walnut Manor fall through the cracks? Continue reading →
It’s taken close to a week but the city sent a building inspector over to 554 Talbot St. to ascertain what needs to be undertaken to at least bring one or both of the ‘forgotten’ apartments across from city hall up to minimum property standards.
This follows on the heels of two visits by fire prevention officers last week to document fire code shortcomings in the upper units adjacent to the former Capitol Theatre.
So are the four residents any closer to more hospitable accommodation?
Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd said Friday, “The smoke alarms were installed and the junk and everything moved out of the hallway. I think the only thing left is the owner had to order fire doors.”
Take note if you happen to live in any of the similar upper apartments along Talbot Street. Second-story apartments only require one way out, advised Todd. Such is the case at 554 Talbot Street.
“Third storey, then they require a fire escape,” explained Todd.
Do all units downtown meet this requirement?
The first thing you notice are the gaping holes where the ceilings have fallen away.
Patches of paint which have not yet floated to the floor cling tentatively to the walls.
In other areas, vast expanses of paint blister like badly burned skin.
Missing tiles in one of the showers have been replaced with duct tape and garbage bags. The remnants of a skylight are stuffed with a blanket and when it rains, water drips to the floor and down the front stairs.
The pair of apparently forgotten apartments are clearly visible from the window of Mayor Heather Jackson’s office.
The upper dwellings at 554 Talbot St. — seemingly off the radar of several departments at city hall — are home to four tenants who have reached their limits of endurance, shivering in poorly heated residences devoid of proper insulation and plagued by drafty windows.
What’s most shocking is the owner of these apartments has been approved by St. Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works for funding to add 10 one-bedroom units next door at 560 Talbot St., above the former Capitol Theatre. Continue reading →