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St. John's family caught in long wait for housing

Pamela Synyard (rear) of St. John’s has been on a waitlist for about six-months with the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. to transfer to a one-level unit due to her teenage daughter’s medical condition and seizures. Synyard’s mother, Jackie Bromley, has been pleading the need for better accommodations wherever she can. They are shown on the stairs in Synyard’s townhouse that the teen fell down during a seizure.
Pamela Synyard (rear) of St. John’s has been on a waitlist for about six-months with the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. to transfer to a one-level unit due to her teenage daughter’s medical condition and seizures. Synyard’s mother, Jackie Bromley, has been pleading the need for better accommodations wherever she can. They are shown on the stairs in Synyard’s townhouse that the teen fell down during a seizure. - Barb Sweet

Mother seeks single-level unit for safety of daughter, who suffers seizures

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Jackie Bromley thumbs through a thick stack of notebook pages across the kitchen table from her daughter, Pamela Synyard, who tears up over their pleas to speed up the process of transferring to a one-level unit in Newfoundland and Labrador Housing to protect Synyard’s teenage daughter from falls caused by seizures.

Those seizures resulted in the now 13-year-old falling down the stairs last June, with her head puncturing the drywall. She broke her collarbone.

In August, a Janeway pediatric neurologist wrote a letter supporting the move as the teen, who has developmental disabilities, has “intractible seizures where she can have a generalized seizure without warning and collapse to the floor.”

It was recommended she live in one-level accommodations, so she doesn’t have to use stairs.

The case social worker has also written to the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. in support of the move to a single-level unit.

Bromley was at her daughter’s west St. John’s townhouse this week to explain to The Telegram all the appeals she has made to anyone they can think of — including housing officials, disabilities and human rights advocates, politicians and Eastern Health officials.

She and Synyard have gotten lots of moral support, but have turned up no leads on funding or help to ease the family’s perilous housing situation.

They even said they called in child protective services for an opinion.

“We’re private people,” said Bromley, explaining it took a lot for them to contact The Telegram.

“We don’t know where else to go. … The only other option is to put a sign on and sit in the House of Assembly. When is it enough?”

The housing corporation approved the transfer in early December, giving Synyard a waitlist reference number.

Synyard said it took four months for her townhouse to get inspected prior to the approval, and the problem has been there just aren’t any units available. According to her, she was told by the housing corporation to look in the private market because of the wait. They found an ideal apartment with a great landlord, but the cost was $1,200 a month. Synyard said when she went back to the housing corporation about it, she was told she would only be eligible for $800, or $925 if the unit included utilities.

“We’re just asking to keep her safe,” ~ Pamela Synyard

Synyard explained her daughter, who has autism, has a high tolerance for pain, and so when she injures herself, she can’t communicate the severity.

The Telegram decided not to name the teen to protect her privacy.

The bathroom of the townhouse is on the second floor, as are the bedrooms, so it’s impossible to even try functioning on one floor. There are 14 steps between floors.

Synyard has a son also and needs a three-bedroom unit, but said she even offered to sleep on the couch in a two-bedroom if there was nothing else. When she offered to go to a shelter while waiting for a suitable unit, she was told they would have to go on the overall housing waitlist all over again.

Bromley said she and her husband have no room at their house, but pointed out the irony that if Synyard voluntarily surrendered her daughter, there would be money made available for her care if she were placed with family.

Nor can Synyard understand why they can’t be funded temporarily for a suitable unit in the private market until something is available.

“We’re just asking to keep her safe,” she said.

Synyard said the housing allowances for a family like hers on income support don’t take into account any special requirements that disabilities might justify — such as finding a hard-to-come-by one-floor unit.

They also disagree with being told by the housing corporation that other families who may no longer require a one-floor unit can’t be asked to transfer elsewhere to accommodate those who need it.

“It’s only switching a house for a house,” said Synyard, who fears some backlash from going public with her story, due to the stigma of being on income support and how some people view that.

Bromley said Synyard can’t work at this time, as it’s not feasible due to the care required for her daughter’s condition.

As her daughter sometimes wakes as early as 2 a.m., many nights Synyard will sit at the top of the stairs keeping watch in case the teen tries to go down them.

The family has taken to driving around trying to scope out housing units that might work, and contacted the City of St. John’s about its housing, but Bromley said they were just referred back to N.L. Housing.

‘They can’t give me an estimation of time,” Synyard said of the wait. “They can’t say if it’s a year. They can’t say if it’s 10 years.

“It’s not right to say nobody cares, but nobody is helping us.”

Officials at the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. weren’t available for comment.

barbara.sweet@thetelegram.com


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