A Whitehorse man whose rent wasn’t fully covered by social assistance over the summer says he’s now in limbo after receiving an eviction notice from his superintendent.
Ted Shepherd, 59, says he’s lived in a unit in an apartment building at 502 Wheeler St. in downtown Whitehorse for the past five years. But this August, Shepherd said, building superintendent Butch Dupont handed him a letter saying his tenancy was being terminated and that he must be out of his apartment by Oct. 31.
According to Shepherd, the eviction is the result of being $32 short in rent every month since May, leaving him with a total of $160 owing. The shortage occurred because social assistance clients receive smaller payments in the warmer months, when utility and fuel costs are assumed to be lower. However, Shepherd says his monthly rent stays at $950 year-round but he only receives $918 from social assistance per month from May to September.
“It has been an issue before,” Shepherd told the News in an interview Oct. 11. “I suppose … they expect me to take money, that $32, out of the money I’m supposed to live on and add that to what they’ve reduced my rent to.”
While he’s paid the difference out of pocket in previous years, Shepherd said this year he thought it wasn’t fair and didn’t pay, even after Dupont sent him a letter dated June 2 notifying him of what he owed.
“This year, I thought, well, you know, ‘This is not the correct policy. This is not correct legislation,’” he said. “You’re taking money out of me, that I’m supposed to live on, you know, that’s below the poverty line.”
Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living said she couldn’t comment on specific cases, but said social assistance allowances for fuel and utilities are regularly adjusted based on the season.
“This is not new, it happens every year, and our clients are fully aware of this and if they have given us permission, we can can advise their landlords of this as well,” Living said, adding that the allotted amounts are set out in regulations and can’t be simply changed.
“One of the things we will do is we will work with clients (to) either plan for the decrease so they can cover the difference in rent or we can also work with them to cover this difference but with an agreement to repay for those individuals’ rents that may be all-inclusive.”
Shepherd said he asked Health and Social Services for additional funding to cover the difference, but, in a letter dated July 6, a social worker with the income support unit told him his request had been declined.
“I encourage you to continue (to) work collaboratively with me with your monthly budgeting and any other methods to gain self-sufficiency,” the letter concluded.
Shepherd said Dupont gave him the eviction notice Aug. 30, which states that Shepherd is being given two months’ notice “because you are in breach of your tenancy agreement.”
However, the notice, which Shepherd showed the News, is dated Aug. 3, which Shepherd said became an issue when he tried to file a dispute with the Yukon Residential Tenancies Office. The office, he said, told him that based on the date on the notice, the 10-day window tenants have to file an application had long passed. The decision was reiterated in a letter from the office dated Sept. 12.
“I’m saying, ‘No one in their right mind is going to wait around for 27 days or over 30 days to bring this to your attention,’ but they refused to do anything about it,” Shepherd said.
According to Shepherd, Health and Social Services finally relented and agreed to pay the outstanding $160 on the condition he enter a repayment plan, which he agreed to do. By then, though, Shepherd said Dupont refused to go back on the eviction, telling Shepherd’s social worker he felt “disrespected” because several agencies Shepherd had called for help had, in turn, called Dupont about the situation.
The News reached out to Dupont on Oct. 11 for comment.
“There’s nothing for me to say to you, OK? I mean, I’m allowed to give eviction notices, OK? Thank you very much,” he said before hanging up the phone.
Shepherd said the situation has increased his anxiety and made him feel helpless.
“As it is, unless something happens on my behalf real quick, I’m supposed to pack up all my belongings, move to a hotel,” he said, adding that his social worker said his options now were to be placed in a home with six other tenants, “in a home with an elder” or in a room at the River View Hotel.
Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson, who is also MLA for Whitehorse Centre, said he’s had “daily contact” with Shepherd about his housing situation and has been working with him for “quite a number of years,” with correspondence about housing concerns dating back to at least 2014. His situation is not unique, she said.
“The government has created an untenable situation for not only Mr. Shepherd but other people who are also (on) long-term social assistance…. We can’t do much about that because we’re not social workers,” Hanson said, adding she’s largely limited to trying to talk to public ministers.
“If the government wants to pay $1,100 a month for a crummy hotel room, that’s what they’ll be doing, because they have refused to owe the difference of $32 a month…. If you ask me, it’s unfathomable.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org