Saskatoon

Sask. apartment residents who endured 10 days without central heat want answers

Residents who endured 10 days without central heat in their Saskatoon apartment building say they're glad things are working again, but that many questions remain.

Refugees, other low income residents say they could see their breath as they huddled under blankets

Cameron Peekeekoot says he could see his breath inside his Saskatoon apartment as residents of the building waited 10 days before being evacuated. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Residents who endured 10 days without central heat in their Saskatoon apartment building say they're glad things are working again, but that many questions remain.

The residents, mainly refugee and Indigenous families, say the whole ordeal has been difficult.

"I could see my breath. I was wearing double wool socks, two pairs of socks. I was wearing my work pants I have on right now, a bunnyhug and this tuque," resident and industrial mechanic Cameron Peekeekoot said in an interview Monday.

The three-storey Appleby Drive building was without central heat for most of the past 10 days, as wind chill values outside reached as low as –50.

Peekeekoot said they first raised concerns with the management of Calgary-based Mainstreet Equity Corp. on Dec. 27.

He and others said they were given one space heater per unit, and were told it would be fixed right away and they should be patient. The small heaters didn't help, they said.

Some residents left and moved in with relatives elsewhere in Saskatoon, but most had nowhere else to go.

Eventually, someone contacted the fire department on Jan. 4 and a fire marshal arrived the same day. The building was declared unsafe and residents were moved to various hotels Thursday.

On Monday, the heat was back on and they were allowed to return. 

Peekeekoot and others say they're angry they weren't evacuated sooner. They're also angry the full rent payment was withdrawn from their accounts last week as all this was happening.

"A hundred per cent, it definitely could have been handled more differently, more professionally, first and foremost. Ten days without barely even a call back? Hardly no text back? That's long enough with no heat," he said.

Mainstreet provided a written statement about the situation on the weekend. 

"The comfort and safety of our tenants is our highest priority," it said. "It was impossible to complete this repair within an ideal timeframe due to COVID-caused staffing shortages, supply chain delays, and continued extreme weather conditions."

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