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Tenants occupy damaged Junction-area house rather than risk losing affordable housing

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Deborah Savage is standing in her apartment more than three weeks after a fire at the house, looking up at a hole cut in the wall of her living room and waiting for police to walk through the door.

The sun will set in a few hours and already frigid temperatures will plunge to extreme lows. There is no central heat in her one-bedroom unit — or in any of the five units spread throughout the red-brick, three-storey house — any electrical power comes from cords plugged into outlets in the second-floor hallway. Disconnected pipes in her bathroom mean flooding if her water is turned back on.

Deborah Savage was a resident of a property on Keele St. where a small fire forced her and fellow tenants out of their homes.
Deborah Savage was a resident of a property on Keele St. where a small fire forced her and fellow tenants out of their homes.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

Her landlord says he does not want her in there, but, she told the Star, she fears losing her home.

Savage, 47, along with a number of tenants of the Junction house, returned to stay in the building after being displaced by a small fire the first week in January. They’d been staying at a hotel, paid for by an emergency city fund, but a fear of being permanently evicted in a city with a severe shortage of affordable housing has led them to return, effectively occupying their former units without the landlord’s consent.

“We are taking back our place,” said Savage, who was allowed into her apartment by the landlord the day after the fire to pick up necessities. “Homelessness is a big problem in Toronto … we can’t be put out on the street because the landlord decides to renovate,” said Savage. “It’s the middle of winter.”

Landlord David Chun alleges the tenants broke in after refusing to accept that fire damage and issues identified through subsequent inspections mean the house is unsafe.

“There are rules and laws and we are doing everything exactly by the law,” said Chun last week. If there was a way to get them back in he would, he said.

“The police department, the fire department, the fire inspector, the insurance company, the contractor, me the owner, the city and anybody who has been there,” said Chun, when asked who deemed the house unsafe.

But Savage who, like most of her neighbours, lives on a low and fixed income, said some of them would rather live in the home that is now full of holes and partially void of heat and water, than be thrown into Toronto’s rental market, which they say they’ve been priced out of.

Savage pays $650 a month and hydro is included. The average market rent for a one-bedroom unit in a purpose-built rental building in the GTA is about $1,260, according to data published by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Those figures are based largely on occupied apartments and landlords can charge what they want for empty units.

The rest of the tenants are also paying well-below average market rent.

The hole in Savage’s unit was where a strip of drywall had been cut out to expose electrical wiring and wooden studs.

“They took this off after the fire, I guess, to check for damage in my bedroom and that’s it,” said Savage, on Tuesday. One of the tenants told the landlord they were back in, she said, noting she expected he had called the police.

Chun, who signs emails John David Chun, is known to tenants as David Chun.

A fire on Jan. 7 initially displaced residents who have since returned to the house.
A fire on Jan. 7 initially displaced residents who have since returned to the house.  (Toronto Star/Steve Russell)

Savage said they weren’t able to get written proof from the city or landlord that the attic fire meant nobody could come home.

Whether the tenants can stay or will be told to go could be determined at the Landlord and Tenant Board on Tuesday.

The tenants were able to arrange an emergency hearing Friday where their lawyer argued they were entitled to possession and the landlord should restore full power. The landlord’s lawyer argued that the fire and problems found during inspections meant the house was unsafe and he has no choice but to keep them out until the house is fixed.

The board adjudicator said he felt it was best to hold off on a decision until a forthcoming city report could be submitted for everybody’s review.

The fire in the attic of the Keele St. house broke out on Jan. 7. and 10 people were evacuated from five units, including the resident of the attic who has not returned.

Heather Mackay-Lams, 36, who lives in the basement, says she didn’t know anything was wrong until people knocked on her door that morning “I was in my pyjamas, grabbed the cat … we all figured we would be back in five minutes.”

They were sheltered in a TTC bus then sent to a Howard Johnson Inn. The landlord changed the front door and two back locks the next day, they said, and told them renovations and electrical work were needed and they must collect their things.

The city office covering the cost of the hotel said their stay can be extended and no firm date had been set for them to leave.

The tenants got back in, in stages. First-floor resident John Demetriades, whose door is at the back of the house, got a locksmith to let him in more than a week ago. His insulin was inside, he said. Mackay-Lams got in through a window, something she had done a couple times since the fire. Demetriades, 60, was checking the mail on Tuesday and found the front door unlocked. So were the doors of the two upstairs apartments, the tenants told the Star.

So the decision was made to stay in rotating shifts — returning to the inn to shower and eat — to make sure they were not locked out of the Keele St. house again.

The house has not had central heating since Savage initially moved in. Four tenants told the Star they always used space heaters and blankets. Savage said using heaters is one tradeoff for affordable housing.

Savage said Chun has helped them in the past by not raising rent, and during a major ice storm that knocked out the power he provided generators so they could stay in their home.

On Tuesday, the residents say they found space heaters on the second floor and attic and one in the basement that provided a decent amount of heat. When Clinton Reynolds, 37, returned, he also found a stack of cardboard boxes and furniture pulled from the attic piled in his living room. And in his ceiling, there was a gaping hole exposing the upstairs floorboards.

Reynolds, who has a licence to grow marijuana for personal medical use, said his plants have been in storage since the fire and “suffered greatly” because of the cold.

Demetriades said the priority for residents was getting power throughout the house. “We’ll obviously buy water. For me it is going to be a cold night,” he said.

Deborah Savage was a resident of the property on Keele St. when a small fire forced her and fellow tenants out of their homes.
Deborah Savage was a resident of the property on Keele St. when a small fire forced her and fellow tenants out of their homes.  (Toronto Star/Steve Russell)

The police did come by briefly the next day, after being called by the landlord, but left after speaking with Chun’s son and the tenants.

Chun has been ordered to arrange and pay for an inspection by the Electrical Safety Authority, after the provincial body found Chun or an employee “have done electrical wiring” without first arranging for an inspection. He was also ordered to fix any defects by Jan. 23, based on a notice dated Jan. 9. A second notice, mailed on Jan. 31, warned that failure to comply is a provincial offence and a conviction could mean a fine of up to $50,000. Copies were provided by the ESA to the Star, for a fee.

On Friday, an inspector with Toronto Building visited the house and taped an “order to remedy unsafe building” to the front door. Chun must “prohibit the use or occupancy” of the attic apartment, hire an engineer to inspect the building, submit a damage report to the city, make sure urgent repair issues are addressed and obtain permits for all future work, according to that notice.

Prior to that, nobody from the city, including Toronto Fire and Toronto Building, had issued an order to shut the building down, according to Mark Sraga, director, investigation services, municipal licensing and standards.

The power was shut down and doors locked, he said, after tradespeople brought in by the landlord found problems in the house. “It is not that the city has issued any orders directing this, but the building owner knowing the requirements has acted proactively,” he said.

Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop told the Star that the property was returned to Chun the day of the fire and “minor deficiencies” were later found in other apartments but no order was issued to evacuate the building.

Chun told the Star he has been a landlord for two decades and provides many people with affordable housing. He owns at least seven properties, some under his name and others, including the Keele St. house are owned by a registered company — where he is listed as sole director.

He said he has terminal brain cancer, that conversations are difficult and stress could devastate his already fragile health. Some of the tenants, he said, have been harassing him. Everything he has done has been above board and legal, he told the Star.

When first contacted, Chun suggested his son could provide a tour of the Keele St. property — to show the extent of the damage — but rescinded in a text message saying the city was in possession of an engineer’s report that proved the property was uninhabitable.

He did not respond to a request to review that report or questions about prior inspections, heating issues and what tenants were told about the work.

“Stop harassing me because you don’t want to get the Star in hot water,” Chun said.

Savage said no tenant should have to go through the stress of losing their home and not being told why and said a central office or hotline could fix the problem.

By Sunday, Savage had run a power cord through a hole in her floor to Demetriades’s apartment so he could run a heater. The water was still off.

Reynolds was so stressed he said that if Chun gave him back first and last months’ rent, covered damages and moving costs he’d leave.

Mackay-Lams, who lives in the basement, found out Sunday morning that her unit had flooded.

“I don’t know if I am coming or going anymore,” she said. “I feel like the lunatics are running the asylum. I have no idea what is going on.”

Emily Mathieu is a Toronto-based reporter covering affordable and precarious housing. Follow her on Twitter: @emathieustar



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These US entities partnered with the Wuhan Institute of Virology — time for a criminal investigation?

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(Natural News) The Wuhan Institute of Virology from which the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is believed to have “escaped” has a number of questionable partnerships that are worth looking into in light of the pandemic.

Most of them are universities, including the University of Alabama, the University of North Texas, and Harvard University. There is also the EcoHealth Alliance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Wildlife Federation.

While the relationships between these entities and the Wuhan Institute of Virology may be completely innocent, there is no way to really say for sure without a proper investigation. And this is exactly what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling for, as is the nation of Australia.

Pompeo and the folks down under, along with millions of Americans, would really like to know the true origins of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). An increasing number of people simply are not buying the narrative that the novel virus originated in bat soup at a Chinese wet market, and this even includes mainstream media outlets like Fox News.

The only way to really determine what was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and who else might have been involved. is to open the place up for an international investigation. But communist China is against this, of course, accusing Australia of “petty tricks” and collusion with the United States.

“Overnight, I saw comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry talking about a course of activity with respect to Australia who had the temerity to ask for investigation,” Pompeo is quoted as saying in response to China’s aggression against a proposed investigation.

“Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?” he added.

As the U.S. aims to get back on track economically speaking, Pompeo believes that now is the time to hold communist China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and whoever else may have been involved accountable for unleashing this pandemic on the world.

“Not only American wealth, but the global economy’s devastation as a result of this virus,” Pompeo further stated. “There will be a time for this. We will get that timing right.”

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New U.S. analysis finds that lab in Wuhan, China was “most likely” origin of coronavirus release

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(Natural News) While American Leftists and most of the Democrat Party continue to serve as apologists for the Chinese Communist regime over its role in creating and then perpetuating the coronavirus pandemic, a new U.S. government analysis concludes that COVID-19 “most likely” escaped from a lab near Wuhan city.

The Washington Times reports that the analysis cataloged evidence linking the outbreak to the Wuhan lab and has found that other explanations for the origins of the virus are not as credible.

The paper reported:

The document, compiled from open sources and not a finished product, says there is no smoking gun to blame the virus on either the Wuhan Institute of Virology or the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both located in the city where the first outbreaks were reported.

However, “there is circumstantial evidence to suggest such may be the case,” the paper says.

“All other possible places of the virus’ origin have been proven to be highly unlikely,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by the Times.

ChiCom officials have claimed that the virus’ origin is unknown. However, Beijing initially stated that coronavirus came from animals at a “wet market” in Wuhan where exotic meats are butchered and sold in disgusting conditions.

Chinese officials claim that COVID-19 went from bats to animals sold in the market last year, then infected humans.

U.S. intelligence officials have increasingly dismissed that explanation, however, as attention has begun to focus on evidence suggesting that Chinese medical researchers were working with coronavirus in the country’s only Level 4 facility, which is in Wuhan.

U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that intelligence agencies are investigating whether the virus escaped from a lab or was the result of a naturally occurring outbreak, but that analysts have ruled out reports that COVID-19 was manmade.

‘The most logical place to investigate the virus origin has been completely sealed off’

“At this point, it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural,” the general said on April 14, “but we don’t know for certain.”

The analysis said that the wet market explanation does not ring true because the first human diagnosis of coronavirus was made in someone who had no connection to the wet market in question. And according to Chinese reports, no bats were sold at that particular market.

At the same time, several questionable actions and a growing paper trail provide clues that the virus actually escaped from a lab, even as China begins to clamp down on those information streams.

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The biggest media lies about the coronavirus: Origins, treatments and vaccines

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(Natural News) If there is one thing that most everyone can agree on concerning the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is the fact that there is no shortage of conflicting information out there about the nature of it. And the mainstream media is certainly doing its part to steer the narrative as part of a larger agenda, using plenty of misinformation along the way.

The following are among the most commonly parroted lies about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that aim to distort the facts and deceive you into believing falsehoods about this pandemic:

Media LIE: The virus is not man-made

From the very beginning of this thing, the official narrative was that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) came from a Chinese wet market where bats and other “exotic” animals are sold as meat. But the world later learned that it actually more than likely “escaped” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The mainstream media and social media platforms went nuts trying to censor this information and even called it  “fake news.” But eventually it became undeniable that bat soup was not responsible for spreading the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) around Wuhan and eventually to the rest of the world – hence why we continue to call it the Wuhan coronavirus rather than just COVID-19.

We have even seen attempts by the media machine at making the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) a racial issue because there are supposedly more “people of color” coming down with it than people with fair skin, which further detracts attention away from the source of this virus.

Media LIE: Hydroxychloroquine is extremely dangerous and doesn’t work

The minute that President Donald Trump announced that hydroxychloroquine may be an effective, and very inexpensive, remedy for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), the mainstream media immediately began decrying this claim as fake news, even though Anthony Fauci himself praised hydroxychloroquine back in 2013 under Barack Obama as being some type of “miracle cure” for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

There have even been studies conducted that were designed to intentionally smear the drug as both ineffective and dangerous, though one in particular purposely left out zinc, which appears to be a critical co-factor in supporting the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine – in other words, politics as usual.

Media LIE: Only a vaccine can save us from coronavirus

Many politicians and public health officials are parroting the lie that the only way America can come out of lockdown and go back to “normal” is to get vaccinated with some future vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that does not even yet exist. A vaccine, we are repeatedly told, is the only thing, or perhaps some new “blockbuster” antiviral drug, that can cure the world of this scourge and make everything happy and wonderful once again.

Meanwhile, not a peep is being made about things like intravenous (IV) high-dose vitamin C, which is being successfully used in other countries to stem the tide of infections without the need for new drugs and vaccines.

By omission, nutrition is pointless

Speaking of natural approaches to overcoming the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that are being systematically ignored by the mainstream media and most in politics, have you heard anyone mention the importance of nutrition in all of this? We did not think so, and this is intentional.

Regular readers of this site over the years should know by now that the single-most important thing you need to do to stay healthy besides exercising regularly is to feed your body the nutrition it needs to naturally ward off illnesses, including those associated with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

Research compiled by the Lewin Group reveals that nutritional remedies such as calcium, vitamin D, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more all play a critical role in fortifying the immune system, which, if properly nourished, should have little problem fending off disease.

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