‘What’s going to happen to us?’: Dozens evicted from unsafe Winnipeg building

Residents at a Sargent Avenue apartment block could end up back on the street after their building was served a notice to vacate last week.

The City of Winnipeg says the building has numerous life safety issues, but one advocate says the eviction issue is highlighting Winnipeg’s shortage of low income housing.

Dozens of people were scrambling to find somewhere to live Sunday afternoon after receiving a notice from the city last Wednesday.

“The vacate order was issued due to numerous life safety issues in the building. These included no power in some suites, no active fire alarm systems, and a lack of safe egresses,” said a statement from the City of Winnipeg.

Responding to the City, the property’s owner tells CTV News that some suites do not have power because the tenants inside have not paid their hydro bills and some tenants have blocked their personal back doors, impacting egress.They also say the building does have active fire alarm systems and they have been replacing smoke detectors.

The property’s owner also says they were told residents need to be out by 2:00 p.m. Monday.

Resident Dallas Cadotte said there have been some offers to help.

 “Family services has been in here to talk to is and help us,” Cadotte said. “Based on letting us know about the resources they have out there.”

Marion Willis, founder of St. Boniface Streetlinks, said they have clients in the building. She says one of their challenges has been keeping smoke detectors in place.

“They could replace those alarms at 11:00 in the morning and by 11:30 they’ll all be taken out again. Because people are smoking drugs in there,” Willis said.

Willis said that some residents are planning to rebuild an encampment near Misericordia Hospital. She said Streetlinks helped get many of those same people into the Sargent apartment building a year ago.

“Those folks will not be the easiest folks to work with when Winnipeg fire services comes along in a few weeks or months,” Willis said.

 She feels the cycle will continue until there are more social supports available for people in Winnipeg.

“Property owners and landlords are not social workers. And it’s not their job to provide services to clients,” said Willis.

The Province of Manitoba tells CTV News multiple social agencies are aware of the notice and are helping those in need.

Siloam Mission said they often help in these situations, but won’t have enough beds for everyone being told to leave.

Cadotte said while the neighbourhood and building has a history of drug use and gangs, he feels safe with the friends he’s made there.

“I don’t want us to be torn apart,” he said. “I don’t want us to have to be put on the streets. What’s going to happen to us? We’re good people.”

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