After renting the same home for 25 years, Jim was given 3 months to find a new place for him, and his two beloved pets, to call home. Given the state of the rental market, Jim has had to leave his former property before being able to find a new home.

As I began to dig my teeth into the various facets of the housing crisis in North Grenville over the past couple of weeks, I was told time and time again, “You have to talk to Jim.”

I met with Jim at Curry Park, and found that his story not only illuminates the severity of the crisis, but raises some unique questions.

Jim Gibson is 67 years old, and has recently been evicted from his rental home of 25 years.

When the owner of his rental property died, Jim was initially told he would have two years to get ready for a move.

Quickly, however, this timeline was changed to just three months. Since then, Jim has scoured the area for a place. “I put 2300 kilometres on the car looking for a place.”

Like many other residents in search of housing, Jim has found every potential property already snatched off of the market or a non-existent scam.

Jim’s situation is further compounded by two factors: he needs something affordable, and he needs to be able to bring his pets.

Jim worked for the township for “20 some years.” He worked at the landfills of Burritts Rapids, Kemptville, and Oxford Mills. He typically worked alongside Gary Boal, who was struck and killed on the bridge over the South Branch River in 2017.

When Jim retired, he recalls it was “just another heartbreak. I didn’t get a thank you, handshake out the door, or nothing.” Municipal employees are typically recognized for their service upon retirement.

As Jim explained his situation to me, I wondered about why the western world at large seems to view the people that handle garbage as somehow contaminated by their profession.

As a society, the term “garbage man” has somewhat fallen out of fashion; now, we prefer a more politically correct “waste collector.” Nonetheless, stigma lingers. But should waste collectors quit, we would quickly become overwhelmed by our own refuse.

We owe our waste workers, past and present, our sincerest thanks for dealing with our garbage so that we don’t have to.

Jim isn’t holding out on hope for such a social change. He does, however, have the, “best buddies a guy could ask for”, as well as two pets that are like family to him.

His cat, a 21-year-old calico, came into his life shortly after the death of his first wife. Jim says, “I called her Angel, just because of the way it fell into place.” Angel was only a kitten then, looking for a home.

Jim’s dog, Dalton, is a rescue from Big Sky Ranch. Jim’s second wife, Natalie, suffered from seizures. He remembers, “if she went into one of them trances, Dalton would snap her right out of it.” Natalie’s specialists were amazed by Dalton, and told the couple, “don’t get rid of the dog. He’s protecting his mom. He loves her to death.”

Jim lost Natalie two years ago. She was only 45 years old.

He laughed that his friends keep telling him, “I have no idea how your system is even handling it.” I laughed too, because it’s true. “With all of this bullcrap I’ve been through, to all of a sudden get a kick in the teeth, after 25 years of rent in the house, for somebody to treat another human being like that.”

For now, Jim is housed thanks to the generosity of a friend. “At least it’s a roof over my head, and for my dog and cat. I have access to hydro. But, I mean, it’s not like a home home.”

Though it is not legal for a landlord to prohibit pets entirely, the few possibilities that Jim has found for more permanent housing have strongly requested that no pets be brought on to the premises.

“I just totally refuse to go somewhere where I am not allowed to take them. They’re the only family that I have left, you know. I only got one brother left, and he’s in Brockville.”

Jim has hope in the fact that the community is pulling hard for him. Of the Salvation Army, he says, “I love every one of them that work there. They all treat me good.” Jim has also explained his situation to Mayor Peckford. He says she has spent hours listening to him, and he’s confident she knows “something’s got to be done, and done fast.

This can’t go on for another six months or a year. What’s going to happen, not only to me, but other people going through this like me?”

Of Mayor Peckford, Jim says, “she’s a really, really good person to have pulling for you.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. I feel awful for Jim and all that has occurred in his life. I can understand and appreciate the severity of the lack of housing. However, I do feel the working poor are the hardest hit; those on social assistance and over 65 at least have other options available to them.

    I must note, this story seems to be missing information, some items just don’t make sense. For instance, three months is more notice than I have ever received, it’s normally 30 days (no matter how long you lived there). The owner died, why is he saying he was treated so awful, he lived there for 25 years? As for a thank you a retirement, did you contact them? Did he maybe get a thank you but it didn’t meet expectations, meaning he wanted more, but didn’t ask for it? Waste Collector’s looked down on? Maybe that is the writers judgement, however we all have a job to do to contribute to society, waste collection is just one of them. Maybe it’s time to start writing about those stigmatized professions, as it appears the writer has judged them.

    Reminder though don’t forget to fact check.

    • Hi FactChecker,
      Thank you for your close reading of the story. I hope to address your points here:
      1) According to the Landlord and Tenant Board, Ontario landlords must provide a minimum of 60 days. It is somewhat bizarre that someone making an accusation about a lack of fact checking would not have researched this.
      2) To be put out of one’s home after 25 years, in the midst of a global pandemic AND housing crisis, is awful. It is lawful, to be sure, but for Jim it was a disaster. That a is qualitative “fact.”
      3) The Municipal Government has changed since the time that Jim required, so it cannot be directly verified. But the lack of thanks has been corroborated by other reliable sources.
      4) I encourage you to look up “Waste Away” by Joshua Reno or “Garbage Workers: The Hazards of Work in a Stigmatized Occupation” by Claire James. It is not my personal judgement, rather, a feeling expressed by Jim that has also been argued in the social sciences.
      I hope that resolves things for you. Please let me know if there is anything else!

      • Rachel,
        Thanks for the response.

        1) As mentioned, “I” (as well as other family members and friends) have only been ever given 30 days notice. You implied the notice provided was not adequate. The 90 days days notice that was provided exceeded the required minimum 60 days by Landlord and Tenant Board, Ontario.

        2) Qualitative fact to the tenant agreed, as mention it is an awful situation for Jim. But it would appear, people (or just this article) would expect things to never change over 25 years. The owner passed away (as you stated, I don’t know this), that is life. The statements are very one sided especially about the municipality.

        4) Garbage Worker 1991, Australia. Waste Away from 2016 does not seem related based on the follow up interviews with the author (though I have not purchased). I understand how Jim could feel the way he does although my comment was in regards to your judgment, as the writer. Jim explained the situation to you though you made the following statement “… I wondered about why the western world at large seems to view the people that handle garbage as somehow contaminated by their profession.” I don’t have this view, and you are generalizing, with no references, so why do you view people this way?

        Good writing but a missed opportunity to challenge North Greenville affordable housing report timeline (all actions associated) by focusing on housing.

        • Hi again Fact Checker,
          Perhaps we have a different view on what constitutes a fact, because most of your comments seem directed at your (subjective) reading of tone and structure of argument. Every piece of writing carries some implicit bias of the writer. This is, of course, welcome for conversation and debate! That is where the fun comes in. I just hope that we can clarify that there is nothing false that is being presented as “fact” in this article, as you suggested in your first comment.

          As we both have agreed, it is primarily a story about a man who is down on his luck. Rewritten from direct interview, this is a human-interest story that frames the current housing crisis in North Grenville. We have covered the housing crisis at some length and from a variety of perspectives, and will continue to do so as the issue develops.

          1/2) Should we always accept what is lawful as what is good? I have not argued that it was legally inadequate. I have, however, suggested that if greater compassion and consideration of Jim’s circumstances had been considered, he may not be in this situation at all. Even in matters of business, we have the choice to look out for one another with compassion, or not.

          4) I would not have referenced Waste Away if it were not relevant. It is peer-reviewed academic research that, amongst other things, addresses the stigma faced by waste workers. There are indeed issues with access to this type of research, and I apologize that I am drawing on a source that is not open-access. Garbage Workers is more accessible, and I personally do not think that the spacial and temporal distance we have from its writing means we can completely dismiss its merit.
          Why are you so quick to assume I “view people this way” or that I am the one who “has judged them”? You base this accusation on the fact that you, personally, do not have this view. This argument would be equivalent to stating that because you, personally, are not racist, racism does not exist. You argument is based on personal judgement (that this is not an existing stigma) – and yet you take issue with my argument for being a personal judgement (that this is an existing stigma). I have provided sources to back up my argument.

          I do, genuinely, appreciate your close reading and the opportunity to discuss this issue, as well as my integrity as a journalist, at greater length.

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