It took months to evict the tenants of a crack house. The case highlights the frustration of a the long journey through the Landlord and Tenant Board
OTTAWA — The rental agreement was anything but ordinary.
On Aug. 18, before the Landlord and Tenant Board, Ottawa public housing agreed to let tenants of a crack house stay in the home for two more months so long as they didn’t threaten the neighbours, wreck the place more than they already had, stop leaving needles strewn in the common grounds and clean up dog feces inside and outside of 440 New St. Patrick St. in Lowertown.
They were finally evicted Monday, the agreed date, and two weeks after a 31-year-old mom and addict Melissa Glasner, was found hanging in the basement.
Someone in the home had cut her down from the rope, then called 911 at 6:23 p.m. on Oct. 16. She had been dead for hours and there was nothing paramedics or police could do. The death of Glasner was filed away as a suicide. There were others in the house, but they didn’t notice she was missing until it was too late.
The police know the public-housing unit well because they raided it this summer for drugs and charged a handful of people, but not the tenants, with drug trafficking.
It’s the end unit with the uninviting welcome mat that states: “Come back with a warrant.” (The police did in July).
Inside the public-housing unit, it’s even less welcoming, according to a government official, with dog feces smeared on the floors, holes in the walls and garbage strewn upstairs and down. Mattresses are propped up against the windows in the basement and in the bedrooms upstairs. The windows on the main floor are covered up with bed sheets and cardboard.
Outside, in the yard, there’s not a patch of grass or plants, just garbage — Vodka bottles, pop and beer tins, stolen bicycles — stripped of parts, broken lawn chairs and a derelict barbecue without a propane tank.
Ottawa housing first made an application to evict its tenants in June and got a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board in August. The application to evict the tenants of the crack house came after neighbours complained about threats.
It also came at a time when more than 15,000 people — including parents with young children — are on a waiting list for public housing.
Ottawa Community Housing CEO Jo-Anne Poirier said in an interview that the publicly funded corporation acted as quickly as possible to evict the tenants within the legal process. She said delays in the case — it took four months to evict — in part, had to do with the provincial board giving the tenants enough time to obtain legal representation. Once they did, they were allowed to stay an extra two months so long as they obeyed the rules set out in an agreement.
Poirier expressed sympathy for the neighbours of the crack house and said the housing corporation has to “balance the interests of individual tenants and the collective good.”
She says Ottawa housing has only one or two of these drug-house cases each year. A provincial official disputed that, saying it’s more like 15-20. Either way, all agree that one is too many.
And this case highlights the frustration with what appears to be a long journey through the Landlord and Tenant Board, with adjudicators letting a crackhouse stay open four months after Ottawa housing applied to evict, and two months after an adjudicator ruled in favour of the eviction.
Police keep public-housing projects on their radar and have enlisted community liaisons to keep the streets a little safer. But with 440 New St. Patrick St., also commonly known as St. Patrick Street to its residents and their correspondence, it seemed nothing could be done about the threats, noise, the screaming and fighting and the rampant drug use, and the discarded needles and smashed booze bottles in the complex’s common grounds.
So when police raided the drug house in July, some residents literally broke down in tears, and expressed relief and publicly thanked the police, who at the time said the eviction would be imminent.
The councillor for the ward, Georges Bédard, told the press at the time that when citizens report crime, the system works to root out the outlawed underbelly.
Still, the tenants were allowed to legally stay in the crack house until Monday, and long after the July drug raid. That decision had nothing to do with the police. That contract was agreed to by Ottawa housing and the tenants under the authority of Gerald Naud, a member of the Landlord and Tenant Board who signed the decision.
Months later, Melissa Glasner was found dead in the basement.
“Nobody that knows her thinks she had that in her, and nobody thinks she was the kind of person who would kill herself,” said aunt Fran Layton, 64.
“Addicts overdose, they don’t hang themselves. And there were all kinds of people in the house and nobody noticed she was missing?”
Layton described Melissa as a “good person” who cared about family and friends.
“Most addicts are always trying to rip people off, Melissa was always trying to help people,” Layton recalled.
Layton last spoke to Melissa a week before she was found hanging. She seemed in good spirits and gave no indication of any trouble.
The aunt also said Melissa didn’t leave a suicide note.
“If she was trying to get straight and clean, why would she do it? I find it difficult to believe she killed herself,” Layton said.
Melissa was living at a shelter at the time of her death, and friend Tabitha Morris described street life downtown as “Hell in four blocks.”
Melissa’s last moments in that life were spent in the dirty basement of a crack house in Lowertown.
The neighbours in the public-housing project thought the tenants of the drug house would have been gone after the summer’s police raid. No such luck.
In that time — three months — one neighbour was threatened by the tenants. Another neighbour told the Citizen she feared for her young child’s home life with the crack house customers next door “screaming and fighting all night long.” She expressed relief that they were finally evicted and said she wouldn’t miss all the nights the police and paramedics showed up next door.
The unusual conditions that allowed the tenants of the crack house to stay in the public-housing unit included a condition that they pay Ottawa housing $745 — more than half of which was for damages to the publicly-owned home. Other conditions included that the tenants, for the remaining two months before eviction, not “impair the safety on the residential complex of any person” or “remove any smoke detectors in the residential complex” or “dispose of any bottle, needle or syringe in the common area of the rental complex, including the yards.”
The night Melissa Glasner died in the basement of the crack house, neighbours in the project didn’t realize anyone had died next door.
They had seen ambulances at the crack house every other weekend for two years, and so on Oct. 16, when another ambulance pulled up, the neighbours paid little attention.
Gary Dimmock can be reached
at 613-291-2827 or email@example.com