“All I want is to be respected,” says Richard Gauthier, a septuagenarian forced to eat his meal in the corridor of his seniors’ residence for more than a year, due to emergency work in the room. to eat.
When he moved to Habitat Fullum, Richard Gauthier hoped to stay there as long as possible. This seniors’ residence was built in the former house of the Sisters of Providence, not far from the Papineau metro station in Montreal.
The heritage building was renovated in 2014 to accommodate 62 studios and housing for seniors, owned by Espace La Traversée, a non-profit organization. The same building also houses offices of other organizations and an intermediate resource (IR) for people losing their autonomy.
However, a little over a year ago, on January 26, 2023, a damaged column made emergency security work necessary in the old historic chapel, which served as a dining room.
“Around 5 a.m., the tenants heard a loud crack in the house,” explains François Tremblay, general manager of Espace La Traversée. On one of the columns of the old chapel, the plaster had fallen off and it had a “significant gap”, he adds.
The C wing of the building, where the chapel, office space, IR rooms and seven RPA apartments are located, was closed on an emergency basis. An engineering firm was tasked with analyzing the situation.
Due to lack of space, tenants’ meals began to be served in a corridor on the ground floor. Six tables and around twenty chairs are now installed there. The corridor with walls painted dark blue and white is lit by neon lights. Meals are served from stoves adjacent to the kitchen.
A striking contrast with the superb dining room, photos of which are still online on the Espace La Traversée website, recognizes the general director.
It’s the only place big enough to accommodate everyone. (…) I am very aware that it is not a panacea, but it is what we had to offer people. I completely share the distress of certain people, and I find that they are patient.
François Tremblay, general director of Espace La Traversée
A year later, however, the situation is starting to exasperate certain tenants, who are completely unaware of how long it will last, denounces Richard Gauthier.
Waiting for answers
“Will they close our RPA following a lack of investment? Will we be forced to relocate in the midst of a housing crisis that is not easy to live with? », asks the one who has training in civil engineering.
The 75-year-old man says he tried to get answers from Espace La Traversée in recent months, without success. “They didn’t meet with us (to keep us informed of progress), and that’s what I find inconceivable! he exclaims. Because I understand that there is no room. »
François Tremblay affirms for his part that help and support were offered to affected residents. As for a possible closure: “we have never considered that, and we are not considering it,” he assures.
However, the situation is complex. Engineers, lawyers and insurers are involved in the case: “Is it the fault of the people who carried out the renovations between 2012 and 2016? Will (insurance) pay or not? We are getting answers, but it took a lot of time. »
One hypothesis on the table is that the weight of the space above the chapel – formerly occupied by dormitories – has become too great for the capacity of the lead columns, specifies the general director.
“We asked the engineers to move more quickly, so that we could find a way to make the repair,” he assures. “Do we have a few months, a year, a year and a half? I hope so. The work needs to be done. »
Dining room included in the lease
RPA tenants have access to seven meals per week for a supplement to their rent. These meals are supposed to be served in a dining room accessible to visitors, as specified in the annex to Mr. Gauthier’s lease, consulted by The Press.
Mr. Gauthier does not rule out appealing to the Administrative Housing Tribunal to move the matter forward. On January 28, he also filed a complaint with the CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal on this subject. “The silence (of general management) contributes to fueling our anxiety”, we can read there.
On Wednesday, a coffee meeting was organized between RPA employees and tenants. A press release from François Tremblay concerning the dining room was also sent to tenants on Friday, after The Press contacted the organization.
“We don’t want to announce just anything,” Mr. Tremblay cautiously emphasizes. We don’t want to advance dates, but we want to say things honestly. »
“What I’m asking for is transparency,” said Mr. Gauthier. “And let us think about how we treat our elders. We just came out of a pandemic, we spent two years eating out of lunch boxes, in our apartments. And there, there is this happening to us. »
Espace La Traversée in brief
The non-profit organization manages a residential real estate portfolio of 20 buildings.
These buildings are intended for “people living with mental health problems, intellectual disabilities, loss of autonomy linked to aging or difficulty in social adaptation”, specifies the organization’s website.
The organization is also involved in a vast community real estate project in the mother house of the Congregation of the Sisters of Sainte-Anne, in Lachine.