Mailbox damage at 25 West-Central buildings forces tenants to pick up mail at depot

·3 min read

Mailbox vandalism and disrepair at about two dozen multi-unit residential buildings in West-Central Winnipeg are forcing tenants to pick up their mail at a Canada Post depot on McDermot Avenue.

“We have people in wheelchairs, people with disabilities, people who have mobility issues…their mail has been redirected to a depot,” says Vanessa Wiedeman, rental safety coordinator at Spence Neighbourhood Association.

“It's been happening here for years, and we've been slowly working away at it…It is a big concern for people…it’s like their livelihood comes through the mail,” said Wiedeman, who knows of one tenant who had an EIA cheque stolen and fraudulently cashed.

Wiedeman and Stefan Hodges, a tenant organizer at the West Broadway Community Organization, received a list from Canada Post last August identifying 25 buildings in the neighbourhoods of Spence, West Broadway and Centennial where tenants must pick up their mail at a depot because their building mailboxes are not secure. Although some buildings have since dropped from the list because of repairs over the last few months, Hodges said the number of affected buildings remains about the same as others have joined the list.

Grace Silveira says the mailboxes at her Manitoba Housing building on Furby Street have been wrecked for seven months.

“I could understand a month or two months, but seven months? That’s too much. Somebody has to do something.”

Silveira, 53, says her building includes single moms and people with mobility issues. She herself has health issues that cause her pain and will require her to undergo surgery. She’s worried about having to travel to a depot to get mail with surgical stitches.

The depot, about three kilometres from her building, is only open for mail pickup from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on weekdays. To make matters worse, Silveira says several times she showed up in the morning and was told to come back because her mail hadn’t been sorted yet. She wishes Canada Post would deliver her mail to a nearby pharmacy post office on Portage Avenue until the mailboxes are fixed.

“I don’t get it why we can’t go (there) because we can walk there. McDermot, I cannot walk to,” Silveira said.

Hodges has met with tenants in Silveira’s building to discuss solutions and has had discussions with Canada Post, which he says has sent letters to landlords clarifying that landlords are responsible to fix mailboxes. He has also been instructing tenants on how to ask landlords for repairs and how to fill out and submit a repair request through the province’s Residential Tenancies Branch. He says some tenants are so frustrated they don’t even pick up their mail from the depot anymore.

In an email, a spokesperson for Manitoba Housing says landlords across the province are facing similar issues, and Manitoba Housing has ordered “specialized mailboxes” to replace vandalized units in their buildings, but supply chain issues have delayed delivery. The spokesperson would not clarify what makes the mailboxes “specialized” or discuss security features.

“Each site is a special order based on security features, size and location. Manitoba Housing is looking forward to the replacement arrival.”

The Manitoba Housing spokesperson also said they are working with Canada Post in the meantime to determine if closer mail pickup locations or other options are available for people with mobility challenges.

Silveira says she attended a tenants’ meeting in December organized by the West Broadway Community Organization at her building to talk about the mailbox issue. About five tenants showed up, she says, while others were afraid to attend because they feared repercussions.

“Some people just walked by (saying), ‘oh no, I don’t want to be involved, oh, I’m scared.’ Nothing (will) happen to you, speak your mind, (are) they going to evict you? You didn’t do anything wrong. Just because I want to have mailboxes fixed. I mean, it is what it is. You have to fix it.”

Sean Ledwich, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf

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