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Elders want money for ruined furnitureCouple left belongings outside after they were denied public housing unit
Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Timothee and Helen Caisse, ages 60 and 61 respectively, were eventually allowed into their apartment, but not before enduring two nights in the freezing cold while guarding their food and furniture as they waited for Income Security to pay the damage deposit owed to the Yellowknife Housing Authority.
The couple's ordeal began Nov. 10 after they left their cabin on Highway 3, where they had lived for 16 years, and drove the 31 km into town to move into a publicly subsidized unit at Dorset Apartments on the belief that the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment's Income Security division had approved their damage deposit.
The couple lives off Timothee's disability pension, which amounts to about $800 a month. He suffers from prostate cancer, a heart condition, and sports plastic knee caps, and a battery-powered prosthetic arm. Helen suffers from sever arthritis, and spinal cord problems.
When the couple tried to move into their apartment, staff from the Yellowknife Housing Authority refused to hand over the keys because Income Security had yet to indicate it would pay the damage deposit, and the Caisses didn't have the money to cover it.
With not enough gas in the tank to drive back to their cabin, and not willing to leave their belongings behind, the Caisses picked an empty lot at Kam Lake, where they unloaded their furniture and spent the next two nights camped in their Jeep with temperatures reaching -17 C on the second night.
"I didn't want anybody to steal all my stuff," said Timothee. "I couldn't do anything about the animals eating the food." Nov. 10 was a moist and foggy day. Timothee said their furniture, which included a couch, chairs, dressers, end tables, a 42 inch TV and a DVD player, was covered in "freezing rain" which warped the wood on any furniture it touched, and destroyed the electronics.
The couple were forced to spend a second night outside because Nov. 11 –Remembrance Day – was a holiday and there was no one at Income Security who would take their call.
Last Wednesday, Timothee testified in front of an Income Security appeals panel where he asked for $1,800 in compensation.
He said he was told the maximum payout was $1,000, and a decision wouldn't be reached until today.
"I told them, 'one way or another you're going to wind up paying because if I got to take you to civil court, I will,'" said Timothee.
Amy Doerksen, manager of public affairs with Education, Culture and Employment, said she couldn't comment specifically on the Caisse's appeal, but said once the panel – which she called an independent board made up of non-governmental representatives appointed by the department's minister – makes up its mind, the decision is final.
"It would potentially go through the court system (if the decision is appealed further), but within the government that's where it would end – with the board," said Doerksen.
Timothee said he is still upset with Income Security officials for the mix-up over the damage deposit.
"Their mandate is to help people but they're so entrenched they don't give a damn," said Timothee.