A St. John’s woman is in the fight of her life to get her mentally ill brother out of what she calls unhealthy living conditions.
Dolores Moore said the bathroom in her brother’s apartment on Bay Bulls Road should be condemned.
“It’s inhumane, actually,” she said in an interview from her backyard in St. John’s.
“There’s mould up to the ceiling, and it’s not just black mould, it’s got dots and spores and goes right around. You close the bathroom door, [and] it’s on the bathroom door. It’s on the vanity on the side. It’s all over the place,” she said.
Her 63-year-old brother, Bob Moore, who lives in an apartment building at 107 Bay Bulls Rd., suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and is unable to work.
His younger sister said his bathroom also has a leaking toilet, a rusted-out bathtub overflow drain, and a leaking ceiling.
It’s been getting worse and a bedbug infestation this summer was the last straw for her.
WATCH: Dolores Moore speaks with CBC reporter Cec Haire about her brother’s housing conditions:
“With the mental illness that he has, with a room in a bed with bugs crawling on him? It’s a form of torture,” she said.
Moore said the problems have been ongoing for years and her brother tried unsuccessfully to get them fixed — a claim that’s denied by the owner of the building, Killam Properties, which says it became aware of problems only within the past month.
In early August, Bob Moore applied to the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, which pays three-quarters of his rent, for a transfer to the east end of St. John’s where he grew up.
The transfer was denied.
His sister was outraged that the letter said the application “did not meet the eligibility criteria for a transfer” and was “not justified … because you are adequately housed.”
Moore said that wasn’t good enough.
“They did an investigation. They never spoke to Bob. They never spoke to me. They came to a conclusion without asking the person who put in the complaint about it what they thought.”
Undeterred, Moore continued her campaign, writing to the housing corporation and politicians, complaining about the state of his living conditions. His psychiatrist also wrote, saying his current living conditions were harming his mental health.
Then, some progress.
Nearly three weeks after the rejection letter Bob’s transfer was approved in a letter from the housing minister.
The letter said that because he asked for a place in the east end, “there could be a delay.”
His sister said that won’t do.
“It’s been a full-time job the last six weeks trying to get somebody to help. Yes, he got his transfer, but when? Is he going to be there in the winter? Not good enough.”
She wants him moved into a temporary place until the transfer is completed.
“He needs to be moved out immediately,” she said. “I thought they were going to take him and put him somewhere safe until they found somewhere for him to go.”
All too common, says advocate
Mental health advocates say when it comes to inadequate housing, this is common.
“It’s not unusual, unfortunately. We hear these stories and see these kinds of situations all too frequently,” said Paula Corcoran, executive director of CHANNAL — the Consumers’ Health Awareness Network of Newfoundland and Labrador — a mental health peer support group.
It’s common for people with mental illnesses to tolerate inadequate housing out of fear, she said.
“There is that notion and a real fear that if I verbalize, that if I complain to my landlord, if I call the housing department, if I make some noise about where I am living, that I will possibly end up homeless,” she said.
Meanwhile, Moore is worried about her brother’s health.
“I don’t want him to have a relapse in his mental health,” she said.
“This could be detrimental to him and could send him down a path he might not come back from.”
Moore says the housing corporation has a bigger role in protecting people from this sort of thing.
“They should be looking after the people they give money to. If you’re subsidizing people, then you’re responsible to make sure that where they live is livable and you need to check up on that,” she said.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation says it won’t comment, for privacy reasons, on an individual’s file.
In a letter to CBC, Killam Properties’ director of property management, Dan Sampson, said they were not aware of Bob Moore’s ongoing bathroom problems and only found out about “maintenance issues” in a letter from the housing corporation in late August.
The company says now that it is aware it will address them as soon as the bedbug issue is under control.
Sampson said Moore’s apartment is the only one affected and his infestation has not spread to other apartments.
Dolores Moore said the issues are not her brother’s fault and the people who should be helping him need to do more.
“Lack of maintenance — that’s got nothing to do with him. The mould — that’s a moisture problem — that’s got nothing to do with him,” she said.
“N.L. Housing needs to do more to protect people it pays rent for.”