Tenant Testimonial: Sharon (Part 1)

Thanks to Anthony Haley for this portrait.

Sharon, her husband Bill, and her three cats – Speedy, Monkey, and Baby – live in a triplex house on King Street near East Bend Avenue. She has lived here for more than 20 years and pays $550 in rent. This is affordable to her and her husband, who survive on Old Age Security and Ontario Disability Support Program payments. Along with many other King Street tenants, Sharon is facing eviction from her home by Metrolinx and the City of Hamilton for the Hamilton Light Rail Transit project. Sharon is determined to stay in her home until Metrolinx agrees to appropriate compensation and long-term housing security, rehoused in an apartment she can afford. Sharon tells her story of organizing with her King Street neighbours and fighting back against Metrolinx.

Video transcript:

When Metrolinx bought my place I told him about my oven not working, told him about the cockroaches. He informed me he would have nothing to do with that. Then I had bed bugs and it took me three sprayings. January we were without heat. Finally they sent somebody. Said he’d be back. He never came back. That Friday I was without heat again and this time I went for eight days without heat! We’re depressed. We’re like at sea. We don’t know what’s going on. They tell us one thing and then you hear nothing.

Hi, I’m Sharon Miller. I live at King Street East and East Bend. I pay $550 a month, inclusive [of utilities], including free laundry. I am right in the middle of the LRT corridor.

Metrolinx bought my house in June of 2018, and to date they have nothing appropriate for me to go to. It’s where we are now. They do nothing. They talk a good story and then there is nothing to show for it.

I’ve lived here 20 years. I’m perfectly happy here. I’m close to buses, I’m close to shopping. And being in a walker, that’s a biggie. And then they just came and ripped the rug out from under me, without I don’t think, even caring. It was just, oh yeah well, we’ll give you this, this and this, and that should make you feel whole. No it doesn’t! I’m staying here until they find something appropriate for me, and I don’t care if they like it or not. What are they going to do? It’s October. Throw me out on the snow?

Their deal with me, supposedly, is that they will pay first and last month’s rent. They will pay me what I pay here now, one month, for my trouble — $550. And that they would pay for all moving expenses and if the rent was higher than what I pay now, they would pay whatever was over and above the $550 for a year. Well that’s all good, but at the end of the year, I’m still stuck with that increase.

And I’m on Old Age. I don’t get a lot. I get less than what people get on ODSP. I’d be having to decide whether I eat, or whether I can watch TV, or whether I get to have a phone, or whether I paid my rent.

[The LRT] is for the people that are gentrifying downtown, landlords are throwing people out, putting rents up, and it’s for the gentrification of downtown Hamilton. It will be for the people that come in here with money, not for the people that worked to build this city.

If I see another sign like the one at the Queenston Traffic Circle that says “future low-income housing” I want to scream. How far in the future? Twenty years? Thirty years? I guess sticking those machines there makes it look like they’re about to start. Yeah, right. Doubtful. Hey, maybe I’ll be pitching a tent there next summer if they throw me out. No, because I’m not leaving.

It’s not just going to be us. We’re just a small portion at the moment. This is going to go all the way to Eastgate. And it’s not going to be just the ones that are exactly on the corridor. Because the developers are going to move in like vultures. And then the houses that are just off [the corridor], are going to be swallowed up too so they can build condos and restaurants and high-end everything. And there will be no place for those of us who used to call Hamilton home.

Dig in your heels. Make sure that what you already have is what you’re going to get when the dust settles. Don’t let them bully you or give you false promises. In fact, if you find a tenant meeting, or a flyer that says there is one, please come out. There is a larger voice in numbers than just one or two of us. To them, we’re just like a couple of cockroaches that they can just step on. They can’t step on a swarm. So the more people and the more voices we have, the more we are going to get what we are entitled to.

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