Ches Fizzard poses with his dog Blue at this tent pitched off Forest Road, St. John’s. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram
A St. John’s man evicted from Newfoundland and Labardor Housing has been living in a tent for a week and vows to pitch one on Confederation Building’s grounds Monday to call attention to his and other homeless peoples’ plight.
“It’s a hard time for me,” said Ches Fizzard, who put a tent in the woods off Forest Road so he could keep his family pet, a black and white Sheltie named Blue.
Fizzard said he’s been cut off from social assistance benefits and was given a small tent, tarp, pillows and blankets by various charities and had just acquired a stove before he spoke to The Telegram Friday.
“They don’t return your phone calls,” he said of Human Resources, Labour and Employment (HRLE), adding he begged the department for $20 for food on Labour Day weekend and was refused.
He’s been living in the woods for a week while his wife and grown son are at a Water Street shelter.
Fizzard said he’s endured heavy wind and rain this past week.
“I don’t go to sleep at all. I guess they can’t charge me with anything for staying here,” he said.
“I’m not doing any damage. I don’t drink and I’m not setting any fires.”
He also said the family's drug cards were cut off and then temporarily reinstated.
Fizzard’s troubles started early this summer when his 24-year-old son, who Fizzard says suffers from attention deficit disorder, cursed at housing workers doing renovations in their Stabb Court unit and the provincial landlord-tenants board backed their eviction after a hearing.
The family spent some time in a local hotel before being transferred to the shelter, with Fizzard deciding to live in the tent.
The dog is not welcome in the shelter and Fizzard said the dog calms his son and so the family doesn’t want to part with Blue.
Fizzard said he’s tried looking for an apartment in the city, but can’t afford the high rents.
HRLE can’t comment on specific cases, but said it doesn’t necessarily cut off people without a fixed address — it depends on the circumstances, such as whether they have a bank account where their cheque can be deposited.
For rents on the private market, HRLE pays $472 a month before utilities.
Fizzard said he’s been unable to find anything at that amount — the family had a lead on one, but when they got there the landlord said it was gone. Afterwards, Fizzard claimed the landlord indicated the family wasn’t desired because they were receiving social assistance.
The province does pay shelters to house homeless clients — $130 a night. Each person also receives $125 a month for incidentals.
City of St. John’s housing doesn’t have any vacancies and, as of July, it had more than 350 people on the waiting list.