When criminal charges were filed against Jacinda McCormack’s neighbor, she was sure the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation would move her and her family.
After all, McCormack said, a government agency employee told him that an escalating conflict with his neighbor was not grounds for a transfer to a different unit, unless he turned criminal.
“They (NLHC) shouldn’t be making promises they’re not keeping,” McCormack said in a recent interview at his Eric Street housing unit.
“It’s absolutely terrible what they’re doing to us. We’re not asking for much. One transfer is all we’re asking for, you wouldn’t think they’d let things go that far and not trade us, you know?”
McCormack has been requesting a transfer since 2021. After Breaking: began consulting with the NLHC about the rules surrounding transfers when criminal charges are at stake, McCormack received notice that she was added to a transfer list.
McCormack has three children, including an eight-month-old girl. She started living in the family unit in 2017 and had no problems for years.
The problems started in 2021, she said, when she got into a relationship with her neighbor’s ex-boyfriend.
Documents provided by McCormack show that she had called the police four times before the contentious situation reached its peak in May.
“[My neighbour] He entered my house and tried to attack me. I then had to physically push her out of my house. She then came up to me again and punched me in the face and threatened to throw out all my windows and my cameras,” McCormack said.
“I had a bunch of stuff on the side of my property and she knocked it all over the ground.”
Charges filed; rejected request
Court records show the neighbor was charged with assault, damaging by interfering with the use of property, and making threats to damage or destroy property. No allegations have been filed to date.
McCormack said he sent NLHC police and court documents, as well as surveillance video and audio of the incidents.
“They told me that if things escalate, escalate and charges are filed, they could move me and give me the transfer,” he said.
Despite that, McCormack said his transfer request was again denied. She said that she was told that NLHC does not move people for social reasons.
The following month, McCormack called the police about the neighbor’s relative who was first charged. Police arrested the second woman for assaulting two police officers and damaging police property.
After nearly three years of inquiring, McCormack received approval for his most recent application last week. They added her to the transfer list, and it’s a long one.
NLHC said that, as of July 7, there were 196 people across the province on the waiting list for a transfer. Most of them, 135, are in the Avalon region.
Depending on the housing corporation, the estimated wait time varies, depending on both unit availability and the applicant’s specific requirements.
These include the location, the number of rooms required, and accessibility requirements.
Needles in the ground, violence in the streets
A few miles away, there are more concerns about a lack of options to get out of a sticky situation.
Maurice Doyle and Ashley Conte would welcome a place on the list, if it meant the chance to leave Livingstone Street in downtown St. John’s.
The couple and their three-year-old son have lived in the unit for a year and a half. They sent the doctors’ notes and medical records to NLHC, they said, but their requests for transfer to a different housing unit have been denied.
“I’m afraid to leave my house,” Conte said in a recent interview. “We shouldn’t have to be afraid to leave our house. No one should.”
Doyle said he is constantly searching the local park grass and sidewalk for used needles and drug paraphernalia. He often accompanies his son to daycare and walks past people who use drugs in plain sight.
“My son is only three years old. He’s not going to know the difference between a needle [or a toy]. And keep an eye on him, obviously, but if he falls and hits himself, what happens then?”
Doyle acknowledges that criminal activity and drug use occur everywhere, but said Livingstone Street is too dangerous.
As he speaks, a couple of Royal Newfoundland Police officers ride by on police horses.
“That is very common. It’s very, very common, but it still doesn’t fix the problem,” Doyle said, pointing at the cops.
“It’s just bad, really bad down there. It’s needles and it’s all the trouble around here.”
Doyle said not enough is being done to help drug users in the area, arguing that officials don’t pay as much care and attention to and around Livingstone Street as they do to other suburbs, where there are community centers and services for children.
Police frequently called the area
The numbers provided by the City of St. John’s through Access to Information support the experiences of Doyle and Conte. From January 2022 to now, there have been dozens of calls to the city’s 311 hotline to report discarded needles in the area, including in Tessier Park, where Doyle brings his young son.
In the first seven months of this year alone there were 142 calls for service to Livingstone Street, according to data obtained from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, also through access to information.
But concerns about crime don’t automatically make tenants eligible to move out, according to rules set by the NLHC.
Breaking: requested an interview with the minister responsible for housing, Paul Pike, but he was refused.
However, an NLHC spokesperson said tenants must be inside the unit for a year or more and there must be “a legitimate reason for a transfer.”
Those reasons include if a tenant is a victim of violence, has insufficient housing, has a disability, or has extreme social problems, assessed by a social worker. Employment and education are also considerations.
Back on Eric Street, McCormack settles into a new waiting game: how long until she’s off the list and into a new house.
“This doesn’t even feel like home anymore. We’re just stuck,” McCormack said.
“We can’t do anything. It’s not a way to live at all.”
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