Crying for help: P.E.I. woman’s home needs repair, but she can’t do it

Published on July 10, 2017

Lillian Cheverie’s home will no longer be covered by insurance later this month if she doesn’t fix her roof, but her three-year attempt to get help from the province’s home renovation program has so far been in vain.

©THE GUARDIAN/Teresa Wright

“I just don’t want to live like this anymore.”

Lillian Cheverie’s home is in such a state of disrepair, she has stopped letting anyone visit her for fear they might injure themselves.

Her mini-home sits in a quiet subdivision in the Falconwood area of Charlottetown.

But Cheverie’s life is is anything but peaceful.

She trembles with nervousness as she points to the many problems in her home.

There’s a hole in the floor of her bathroom from when she put her foot through the floor stepping out of the shower. She was knocked unconscious from the fall. Black rot under the linoleum appears to be the culprit for the damage.

More of the same blackness can be found on the floor around her back door, which she has trouble opening. All but one window in her home has been glued shut to keep ice and wind from getting in during the cold winter months.

I’m tired of fighting to get help. I’m not asking for a hand out. I’m asking for a hand up.

Lillian Cheverie

There are wide gaps between her front door and its frame. Her washing machine is leaking onto her already compromised floors.

But Cheverie has been living with all of this for some time. It’s the latest problem that has made her situation come to a more immediate head.

Her insurance company has told her if she doesn’t have her roof fixed by July 18, she will no longer be covered by insurance.

“I’m tired of fighting to get help,” she said.

“I’m not asking for a hand out. I’m asking for a hand up.”

Cheverie says her local MLA, House Speaker Buck Watts, came and visited her home just before her son died by suicide three years ago.

“He came in and saw the damage. It wasn’t as bad then, but it was bad. And he said ‘You’re a shoe-in for the grants,’” she recalls.

She submitted her application for the home renovation program and tried to give them pictures of the damage to help boost her chances at getting a grant, but the department would not take her photographs.

The program is based on income levels and the renovation needs of applicants, but both factors can change from year to year, a spokeswoman for the Department of Family and Human Services told The Guardian in an email.

Households that make less than $35,000 in combined income with a property value of less than $145,000 are eligible to receive up to $6,000 for structural home repairs.  

Applicants with the lowest income are the first to receive funding and money is dispersed until the amount allocated every year in the provincial budget has been exhausted.

Cheverie didn’t make the cut the first year she applied, but was told she did not have to re-submit her application, as it would remain in the system.

This year, she was told that wasn’t the case and that she would have to re-apply. But by the time she learned this, the program was already closed to applications for the year.

The department says every applicant from the 2016 intake year was sent a letter explaining why they were not able to receive funding and advising that they would have to submit a new application for 2017.

Cheverie is out of luck for the program this year. As a seasonal worker living in a home in need of serious repair, Cheverie now says she is at a loss for what to do. No one will even return her calls, she says.

“I wanted to show them pictures so they could see that I need help,” Cheverie said.  

“Now it just feels like there’s nowhere to turn.”