Saskatoon condo owner says he has been sleeping in his car for two weeks following Prairie Heights closure
SASKATOON -- Sergii Bogdanoff says he has been sleeping in his car since his condo building was shut down by the Saskatoon Fire Department two weeks ago.
He told CTV News that he now understands the life of homeless people.
"I understand, I am inside in this life. It’s not an easy life ... I have a car but some people don’t have anything, just a piece of plastic,” he said.
Bogdanoff owns a unit at 1416 20th Street West and has been living there for almost 13 years.
The building, known as Prairie Heights, was shut down on May 6 after the fire department discovered a water leak that was seeping through drywall and collecting in the elevator shaft.
Assistant Chief Yvonne Raymer said the fire department was unable to find where the leak was coming from and that it was “no longer feasible” for them to make repairs to the building.
It is now up to the condo owners to make the required repairs in order for the building to reopen.
So far, no repairs have been made, according to the fire department.
On Thursday, registered owners were allowed to enter the building and were given until 2 p.m. to remove personal belongings, according to the City of Saskatoon.
Some of the owners and occupants were contacted by health inspectors in advance, the City said.
Bogdanoff said he was not contacted, but got lucky as he was driving by the building and noticed people were being let inside.
“We have a few hours to pick up more stuff. More clothes, maybe my collectible stuff, maybe computer ... I can save my stuff, I love my stuff, it’s nice stuff.”
Fourteen of the building’s 44 units were affected by the closure. The other 30 were already boarded up and vacant prior to May 6.
Several agencies including the Ministry of Social Services, Saskatchewan Health Authority, Salvation Army and Saskatoon Tribal Council were on scene the day of the closure to help tenants who needed housing or income support.
Bogdanoff said he got in touch with the Ministry of Social Services the day after the closure, and said he was told he could either stay at the Lighthouse or the Salvation Army.
“I feel shock ... I am not ready to live like that. I have a property. I want to return to my property,” he said.
Bogdanoff said he has been waiting to hear back from the Ministry of Social Services since then about other, more permanent housing options.
Jeff Redekop, executive director of income assistance service delivery with the Ministry of Social Services, said tenants have the choice to accept or decline available services and that once emergency housing needs are met, income assistance staff will work with them on a longer-term plan for housing.
“While we can't speak to individual circumstances, we do encourage any individual who needs income support and has not connected with long-term housing, to reach out to the Ministry of Social Services,” Redekop said in a statement to CTV News.
“We will work with that person to connect them with community organizations that specialize in helping people find housing, and to the local housing authority who may have available units suitable for individuals and families in housing need.”
The Salvation Army is one of those community organizations. It provides temporary housing and helps find longer-term housing for people.
Marc Cheriyan, residential services director at the Salvation Army, said it can take anywhere from two weeks to two months to find long-term housing depending on the person.
“They meet with our caseworkers and we identify what their needs are as far as housing and what are some of their barriers for housing as well because some people might have been banned from housing or might not be allowed to have housing in certain spots,” he said.
For people staying with the Salvation Army during this process, Cheriyan said they try to ensure the safety of their clients and that they don’t see a lot of violence within the shelter.
He said they recently converted all of their dorms into single rooms so that people don’t have to share and that the only thing that is shared are the washrooms.
Faith Eagle with the Pleasant Hill Community Association said building closures like this affect the whole community.
She said more support is needed to ensure people — like the ones living at Prairie Heights — don’t end up homeless.
“More affordable housing. People that are able to get in without having a criminal record check or them asking so many questions about your history,” Eagle said.
“Poverty and homelessness is the most silent, violent killer.”