A Sidney woman has started a petition to help a well-known community member facing eviction.
The petition started by Nicole Bengtsson calls on Beacon Community Services from evicting Zora Hlevnjak, a 76-year-old woman, who has been collecting empty cans for years to supplement her pension. As of Jan. 12, 372 individuals have signed the petition.
Hlevnjak faces eviction from Sidney’s Wakefield Manor, where she has been staying since 2004, because of failure to pay $1,087 for three month’s worth of rent following a rent increase. She had previously paid $524 per month under the terms of provincially subsidized housing, but now faces a monthly bill of $887.
Hlevnjak, who faces eviction by Jan. 21, faces the increase after submitting her financial statements in late 2019.
Tim O’Brien, who manages Sidney’s Wakefield Manor where Hlevnjak has been living since 2004, had told the Peninsula News Review earlier that the woman’s rent rose after she started to report her “proper income” as per terms of provincially subsidized housing. Beacon Community Services owns Wakefield Manor, which has been operating as a subsidizing housing facility since its opening 30 years ago.
“Every tenant in a subsidized building like Wakefield Manor pays 30 per cent of their income towards rent, which is the affordable standard throughout the province,” he said. “We didn’t raise the rent. She just started to report her proper income.”
Hlevnjak told the Peninsula News Review earlier that she knew of the threshold and the requirement to submit financial statement, but does not think she should pay the difference, because she does not think of the money she made by collecting cans as income. Hlevnjak also receives donations of money and food from passersby.
“I knew [the rules], but my mind doesn’t allow me to accept to pay [back-rent] from empties and from people that give me money for food,” she said. “I didn’t spend it and I don’t even have that money. I sent it to my people [in Croatia].”
Bengtsson’s petition said Hlevnjak’s issue is an issue of human rights. “We cannot allow Beacon Community Services to continue to push Zora out into the street because she spends days and nights collecting cans and bottles to supplement her income,” it reads. “This is not how we treat our vulnerable seniors.”
Bengtsson’s petition said residents can help Hlevnjak by raising funds to help cover the rent increase that Beacon Community Services is “unfairly demanding” from her. “We can also write letters [to Tim O’Brien] Beacon Community Services in Sidney, insisting that they allow Zora to continue to remain in her apartment and waiving the increase in rent he has demanded of her.”
The Peninsula News Review has reached out to Bengtsson for comment. O’Brien said Hlevnjak can stay her in her apartment if she makes up the outstanding rent. “I don’t want to evict her,” he said. “All that is happening here is that she is refusing to pay her 30 per cent of income as defined by the rules that we are governed by,” he said later.
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