“Is there not a better way to do this – with a little humanity perhaps?”
Julie Chagnon just put large new windows in the small brick building on William St W in Smiths Falls that she purchased in 2021. It stands immediately beside the Assemblies of God church.
Now she looks from the inside out into the light, and, when she’s there, revels in the brightness and warmth.
But she’s not there very often because the Town of Smiths Falls has taped an eviction notice on her front door. In other words, she can’t reside there until everything is ‘fixed’.
And there’s a lot to ‘fix’, according to the Town.
She has been ordered to: “Immediately secure the portion(s) of unsafe building from any and all unauthorized entry, and clean and disinfect and repair the premises in a manner acceptable to the Town of Smiths Falls….
So that means a whole lot of stuff, including: obtaining permits, finding an architect and an engineer, contacting the health unit, making sure work designated by the Town to be done is completed to the satisfaction of the Town, making sure both electrical and mechanical services are in good nick, giving copies of work done to the Town…and anything else that may be required by the Chief Building Official. There was a very short time frame to get things done; the eviction notice went up September 13 with compliance demanded by October 1.
“So I started on some work,” Julie says, “but learned I had to cease and desist from David Sutherland, Chief Building Official, until I obtained a building permit. That’s when I discovered I couldn’t obtain a new permit because an earlier permit existed….a permit that was opened in 2014 and never inspected and never received an occupancy permit to live here or run a business…ever.
“Had I known I would never have bought the place. It wasn’t posted on the door.”
So…she’s homeless. She can’t sleep in her own home, can’t live there over winter, will have to turn the water off and the heat down to minimum to keep her cat warm.
How long will this go on? If her battle to win back her house is settled out of court, she could be back in by spring, she says; if, however, she has to litigate, it could take two or three years.
There are many who will say it’s for her own good…and this is so, if only she had known before she bought the building, put in the windows, landscaped the front lawn, buried her small dog there.
At the moment she’s living a block-and-a-half away with a young family. She keeps an eye on her home from afar, keeps the outside tidy. Many of the vegetables she picks from her front garden are contributed to the Food Bank, the others she gives away. There’s been more than one night she’s spent in her van, and that’s okay in this weather. But winter’s coming…
She moved in knowing “there were certain things I had to do” but “didn’t realize the severity of this.” When all is said and done it could cost as much as “$400,000 to get it finished.”
In saner moments, after a good night’s sleep, after a long walk, Julie admits the craziness of it all has “allowed me to appreciate things I have all the more,” but it also makes her “want it even more. I long to shower there, enjoy the windows, sleep there…
Her mantra? “One day at a time, one breath at a time, 10 minutes at a time…”