Kensington community rallying behind senior resident facing eviction

By Melissa Nakhavoly

The Kensington community is working to rally around a 70-year-old resident who is being evicted for not being able to afford rent.

Maria Santos has been living in the Kensington community for 30 years. She moved into her two-bedroom apartment four years ago after the place she was living in long-term was sold.

She is currently being supported by the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, but it doesn’t come close to covering her over $3,600 a month cost for her rental. 

“We’re all struggling and nobody is helping the government is not helping it doesn’t matter who you ask they just turn their backs on you and I’ve been trying so hard time,” said Santos.

“I don’t make enough, I don’t get enough. I’m on pension and OAS, I can’t afford actually anything.”

Two days ago, she was given an eviction notice over failure to pay rent.

Santos is also the primary caregiver for her adult son who is also living with disabilities. The few options that she does have to find shelter would require them to be separated and she would not be able to care of him any longer, something she simply can’t do.

“I didn’t expect to be 65 in the situation, I’m actually 70 now but since 65 I’ve been struggling too much.”

In a desperate attempt to keep her off the streets, the Kensington community is rallying behind her trying to help Santos find a place to live that she can afford but so far there hasn’t been much hope

“It’s really opened my eyes to the ways that people fall through the gaps. I knew it was tough but it was a lot tougher to hear ‘no’ over and over and over again. And there’s no amount of explaining the situation as dire as it actually is,” said Serena Purdy, the Friends of Kensington Market Chair.

Last year, Toronto city council approved a plan that would see the city aim to build 65,000 new rent-controlled homes by 2030 which would include 6,500 rent-geared-to income unit. But, for people like Santos, that help is needed now.

“I just wish that the government would wake up feel the pain that everybody is feeling out here. Give a little more help more support because we’re all living in poverty,” said Santos.

Santos has been on the rent-geared-to-income waitlist for 12 years, but she is 192 on the list and falls outside of the established priority category.

That list includes people who have experienced domestic abuse, terminally ill applicants and applicants who are relocating from supportive housing.

A GoFundMe has been launched to help Santos and her son afford first and last months rent and some of expenses associated with moving.

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