“I have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement I'm getting concerning my speaking out on the deplorable state of seniors housing here in the Battlefords,” says Valleyview Towers II tenant Natalie Berrecloth. “To hear from people I know, or from people who are close to the situation is one thing, but to hear and read comments and opinions from regular folks in the community is particularly heart warming.”
Berrecloth is a tenant in one of the two towers operated by the Battlefords Housing Authority that are commonly known by city residents as the “seniors highrises.” However, as the provincial government has confirmed, the towers are apparently not reserved for seniors and people with disabilities, despite what the housing authority website says, and “hard to house” individuals are being tenanted there as well. The age of these individuals is unknown to the News-Optimist.
Long time residents have become increasingly frustrated and worried by the antics of some tenants, or the guests they allow into the building, whose tendency to drink, do drugs, party and damage property brings the police and fire department regularly to the scene.
Complaints to management go undealt with, says Berrecloth.
“While the powers-that-be are busy with the same old lip service and the manager is busy passing the buck and blaming someone else, the regular folks aren’t being fooled. We are all sick and tired of the incredible irresponsibility we’re witnessing.”
She says there are voices calling for an immediate change in management.
One of the biggest frustrations, she explains, is that there seems to be no action being taken about their concerns, although they are told “it’s being taken care of.”
It’s to the point, says Berrecloth, that tenants don’t see any point in saying anything to management anymore.
“Tenants don't bother to talk to the office any more because no one there seems to care,” says Berrecloth.
They have also been passing the buck, she says, and are blaming tenants for not informing them about things that are happening before they go to the media.
“Two weeks ago, we had the four police calls over three days. There was the drunkenness, the vomit, the human excrement, property damage etc. I, for one, made several calls to the police. As I always do, I also called the manager’s direct line and I left a message for him to call me as soon as he gets into the office.”
She says the same thing happened several days later when the stabbing occurred in front of her door.
“I called the manager’s direct line at 12:30 a.m. and told him we had a very serious incident and he should call me first thing in the morning. I also left a message on two other staff member’s direct phone lines.”
She says she left a message on the manager’s direct phone line every time she became aware of a police incident.
“I always gave ample opportunity for the manager to deal with these problems before I ever contacted anyone else – especially the media,” she says.
After a recent weekend of rowdy behaviour and again after the stabbing incident, Berrecloth says, she was approached numerous times by staff and chastised for not telling them about these incidents before she spoke with the media. They told her they only learned of the incidents through the media, she says.
Berrecloth questions how that can be true since their janitor cleaned up the elevator and fifth floor on a Friday morning after the first night of drunkenness in question, and two staff members were also outside her door surveying the damages first thing in the morning after the late night stabbing she described in last week’s News-Optimist.
“Someone at the Housing Authority knew,” she says.
The News-Optimist has reported numerous times that Valleyview Tower II has been plagued by drunkenness, disorderly conduct, drug use and of police being called to the scene. Inquiries to the Battlefords Housing Authority have not be answered.
“People in the Battlefords are starting to call our building Lighthouse II,” Berrecloth says. “Is it any wonder?”