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'It's not safe': Residents of Saskatoon seniors complex feeling like prisoners in their own home

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Residents of a Saskatoon seniors complex say they feel unsafe and ignored by the province after the facility they live in was opened up to people with complex health and addictions needs.

"I feel for the seniors who are in their sunset years here," resident Janet Oglestone said. "This is how they are living. They stay locked up in their rooms. They don't want to come out. Never do they come out during the evening. They fear for their lives"

People living at the Scott/Forget Towers say in January new residents began moving into the 55 and older residence meant for seniors with lower incomes.

What followed was meth use, drug deals in stairwell, poop smeared on the buttons inside the elevator, and fires set in common areas. Residents say finding weapons and cockroaches isn't their idea of retirement.

"It's not safe," resident Marge Carson said. "I wouldn't wish anybody to live here."

Many residents say they feel unsafe and can hear fights happening through the walls. Others say they feel like prisoners in their own home, helpless against the sudden rise in drug use and problematic behaviours.

Carol Koffler lost two brothers and a nephew to addiction. After four years there, she said she's worried and afraid to live at the Scott/Forget Towers as the issue is "getting worse." She went to go inside her car one night when the son of one of the residents which she assumes struggles with addiction was outside the building.

"He was so sketched out. His eyes were bugging out," she said. "Even when I talk about it now, I shake because I suffer with PTSD. So this has set my PTSD off."

Some residents have taken it upon themselves to form a "safety squad" in response to keep note of people's experiences and report them to the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, which oversees the facility, or police—who have been called to the residence at various hours of the night multiple times, according to residents.

"We were a community back then. We're not a rehab center," Ogletree said.

Meara Conway, the NDP social services critic, said the province has a track record of treating seniors like this.

Last fall, seniors in an apartment in Moose Jaw raised extremely similar concerns, including poop being smeared in the elevator.

"They don't have a plan, and that's part of the issue. They're in crisis mode," Conway said.

"I think this is just a response to how do we how do we get people into units without thought."

Roger Parenteau, the executive director of housing with the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, said none of the residents at Scott/Forget Towers are people with complex mental health or addictions needs.

"We haven't purposely placed individuals at this project that have complex needs. They are individuals that qualify for the social housing program," he said.

He did not say if there was a recent change in programming or approvals or explain why there was a sudden shift in resident behaviour.

He said, like anyone else living there, residents are required to provide income and asset information along with references from previous landlords. Applicants are then prioritized for social housing based on suitability, adequacy , and affordability.

"It's to be determined whether it's individuals that are actually tenants or if they're individuals that are our friends or family of these tenants," Parenteau said.

That is another concern of residents. They say many young people are living in the building even though it's against the rules to have someone over for an extended period of time. They say these younger people are attracting more young people.

Parenteau security was added, a keyless door system was added to better monitor who is going in and out, and the housing corporation has also engaged in "tenant education" to ensure residents aren't inviting people into the building who aren't supposed to be there.

Some residents feel there needs to be more evictions and less education.

"We're living out our final days of life, and most of us just want a peaceful life. So to the Saskatchewan government, I'd say you better start looking at what you're doing to the seniors in the province, because this is just not right," Gaye Tough said.

Parenteau is encouraging residents to report any incidents to the Saskatchewan Housing Authority to help address safety concerns.

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