Yesterday at about ten in the morning Central Elgin turned off my neighbours' water.
They weren't at home. I tried to explain that the middle-aged tenant was a VON client
on Disability who had been receiving daily nursing visits as long as I could remember.
Of course the two workers didn't care about that. One even thought the situation
was funny. So off went the water. Just following orders.
The tenant lives there with two lads in their twenties, one of whom works for a
landscaper. They are involved with a dispute with their landlords over a water leak
that allegedly went unrepaired and led to outrageous water bills that led in turn
to the taps being turned off. The place from the outside is a mess and you would
not rent to these folks unless you were desperate, which the landlords were.
I could care less about the details of the landlord-tenant dispute. The tenants
have given their notice to the landlords and will be out of there by the end of
September. Yesterday they were out looking for a new place. They claim have been
without hot water for months. But there are two sides to every story.
When I called Central Elgin the story was basically, "You don't pay your water bill,
the water eventually gets turned off". The VON were concerned and said they would
see what could be done. When I called the St. Thomas Elgin Health Unit I was told
you can't cut off the water supply like that, especially when you have a sick/disabled
occupant. This would seem to be news to Central Elgin.
But why should Central Elgin care about these people? The poor and the disabled
seldom turn up at their Council Meetings. They do not appear at their focus groups
demanding this or that. Their stories will never appear in the St Thomas Times-Journal,
the Weekly News, or the Lake Erie Beacon. You will not see their smiling faces donating
cheques to the hospital, or running in charity races. They will not be issuing press
releases about their situation to media hungry for content.
But yesterday in a charming beach town, a couple of bullies turned up and kicked
sand in their invisible faces.
Follow Up: THE INVISIBLE ARE SEEN
Our disabled neighbour, a man receiving constant visits from the VON, not only had
been without hot water for months, but had the water to his rented cottage cut off
by Central Elgin two days ago.
Central Elgin, the VON and the St Thomas-Elgin Health Unit, all powerful public
institutions dedicated to the well-being of all, were contacted and entreated to
help. But our tax dollars were not working very well that day.
Neighbours were more successful, hooking up a garden hose to transport water to
the tenants and somehow warm water from their water heater! Their ingenuity achieved
that for which VON nurses had been lobbying for months.
In the meantime we learned that to his credit the landlord had come and repaired
the leaky pipes that had caused the crazy water bills which had led to the taps
being turned off. Also a deal with the tenants whereby they could get their hot
Further, he promised to pay the water bill that very afternoon. True to his word
he turned up with his credit card, only to be told that Central Elgin didn't accept
credit cards in these situations. Still no water.
So forty-eight hours in, we resorted to something you should never have to in a
situation like this. An hour after explaining the situation to the Deputy Mayor,
the water was back on.
All because a politician with a big beating heart explained to a bureaucrat that
it is inhuman to withhold water to a person who is reportedly ill with cancer and
who has no water to boil when the dressings on his legs are being changed. The bureaucrat,
was shocked, shocked, to learn that the tenant was in such dire straits and immediately
gave the order.
So thanks to him, and to the Deputy Mayor, and to the landlord, and to the neighbours.
Like the old time magician, you turned The Invisible back into human beings.