Following the struggle of Erin Jacques, who has recounted to SaultOnline an exhausting battle with the Board of Directors and ex-coordinator of La Chaumiere cooperative housing, two more people have come forward with allegations of bullying and harassment at the complex.
This implies that this issue is a little more deep-routed, and perhaps the toxic environment alleged in the housing complexes is more common than you’d think.
Tammy Quesnel said she moved out of La Chaumiere in May of 2014. “I lived there for about two years, and things had been going alright for about the first year. I was paying rent, I would go in and pay it right away if I missed the 1st. I took the unit as is, and it was a total disaster. I fixed tons of holes in the walls, drywalled it, painted it, put some money into it to make it livable,” she explained.
She said from the moment she told them moving out, constant harassment began.
“It was horrible. Every time I would go to pack things up and clean, I was being yelled at and threatened.”
When she complained to the office, the coordinator at the time (a different coordinator than the one allegedly bullying in Jacques’ story), nothing was done.
“I didn’t have the keys by the end. When I went there, I had to ask for the doors to be unlocked. There was stuff damaged that was not me, and I know people must’ve been in the unit when I wasn’t there. I couldn’t be in the unit for more than hour packing and cleaning up to leave without being harassed and called a b*tch.”
Quesnel describes cooperative living as she experienced as “people picking and choosing who they like and picking and choosing who they want to pick on, with no confidentiality. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, even if it’s supposed to be kept directly within the Board. There are people who don’t even live in the place that know everything about my arrears.”
This account correlates directly with the tactics used by the Board described by Jacques when she recounted her time at La Chaumiere.
Fast forward four years, Quesnel is being brought to court for fines she describes as unwarranted. “I was put in collection for money owing on bogus stuff, and I didn’t find out until this year. I asked for a breakdown of the $2,483 they said I owed and I never got one. While we lived there we never got detailed receipts or invoices for money owing either. It is all very shady.”
Another point of concern is that Quesnel didn’t find out about these fines until this year, but they were dated back to 2014. She is asking, “Why am I just hearing about this now?”
Luckily, Quesnel had the strength to fight the fines. And in fact, her case was dismissed in a settlement conference call in September of this year. But for many people – who are scared, vulnerable, confused, or potentially ill-read on these matters – it isn’t easy to fight back against a board of people and even a coordinator using fear tactics to exert power.
But the story doesn’t stop there. Ash-leigh Evans, who moved into La Chaumiere in October 2014, had issues with the same coordinator. Having been on the Board of Directors for the complex, she spoke firsthand to the harassment that takes place. She said, “I was on the board when she (the coordinator) came in, and she pressured us into certain situations. She threatened to evict us because we were over-housed, she would threaten to call children’s aid on us.”
Having been pregnant at the time with her fourth child, Evans shared that the added stress was too much to bear. Her and her family moved into a full market rent facility, going thousands of dollars into debt. Now, she is back in social housing, but not the same complex. “There is still issues here,” Ash-leigh stated, “there is a lot of drug use, you can hear people physically fighting.”
This is how vulnerable people in our community are allegedly being taken advantage of, and yet there is apparently no institutional support in place to provide assistance.