‘Known to police’

All photos City of Winnipeg

It looks as if one of the city’s most notoriously violent rooming houses goes under the microscope — or something like it — on Monday.

In the last three years, I’ve been at 624-626 Balmoral St. more times than I can count on both hands. Not to buy crack, but to take in the latest (usually drug-fuelled) mayhem du jour there.

Usually the headline looks something like this:

Man shot at violent Winnipeg rooming house

And then the lede:

A 27-year-old man is in critical condition after being shot at a notoriously violent rooming house in Winnipeg early Wednesday morning.

You could wallpaper the entire place with the amount of police tape that’s been used there in the past little while. But, judging from the pictures above, the decor is not exactly top-of-mind for the owner or people who have lived there over the years.

[UPDATE: Here at this link is a TV piece by CBC Manitoba’s crime reporter Gosia Sawicka. Money quote regarding the former owner: “Things weren’t changing so he gave up.”]

2 homicides in just over a year

In the span of just a couple of months in 2008-09, two people were killed at the rooming house. I may have lost count of the other episodes of mayhem, but here’s the quick rundown of the homicides. If I’m not mistaken, there was another not too long ago. Just can’t quite remember it.

On Nov. 8, 2008, Philip Mayur was stabbed to death on the second floor. The 39-year-old man had arrived in Canada from Africa in the late ’90s and made his way from Ontario to Winnipeg. Media reports said Mayur was the father of four children.

On Dec. 4, police announced the arrest of two men in connection to Mayur’s death. The suspects, aged 26 and 42, were charged with first-degree murder, meaning police believe the killing was planned and premeditated. Their cases are still before the courts.

Last January, Valerie Paypompee, 36, was fatally stabbed in a suite on the second floor of the building. Police allege her boyfriend killed her during a domestic dispute. Paypompee, who was from Shoal Lake, Ont., was Winnipeg’s second homicide of 2009.

Mulugeta Geddy Gillamichael, 34, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death. Gillamichael, originally from Ethiopia, was committed to stand trial in Court of Queen’s Bench in November, but no trial dates have been set.

Anyhow,

City inspectors finally got a clue or a tip that something was wrong there, went in on Sept. 22 and found — gasp! — major structural problems with the place. They’re threatening to sue or even have it closed down under the livability bylaw:

The specific Order stated:

• 624 – Head clearance on the west side stairs leading to the 2nd floor is 171 cm • 626 – 3rd floor stairwell head clearance is 158 cm • 626 – 2nd floor stairwell’s head clearance is 165 cm

1. Section 50(c) – Ensure that the stairways have a minimum head room of at least 195 cm, measured vertically from a line drawn through the outer edges of the nosing.

• 626 – 3rd floor stairwell is 27 cm wide

2. Section 52(1)(b) – Ensure habitable rooms in attics or partial storeys will have stairways leading to the dwelling must be at least 75 cm wide and must not be inclined to an angle of more than 50 degrees from horizontal and must be provided with a minimum clearance height of 180 cm measured vertically from a line drawn through the outer edges of the nosing.

Compliance date: November 5, 2010

The owners are appealing [the work was to be done by Nov. 5] and will have to appear in front of Gord Steeves and the other members of the city’s protection and community services committee to voice their objection and ask for more time.

In a letter notifying the city of his appeal the owner says he’s owned the building less than a year and has been hamstrung by debt to pay for repairs. He does, however, say he’s hoping to save enough to install cameras that will somehow help residents and neighbours feel safer.

Give him a year, he says, and he’ll be “more open to considering” doing such major structural work.

At the end of the day, however, what would probably make everyone feel safer is if the poor souls inside were cleared out and the entire block was bulldozed.

Here’s hoping that’s what Steeves et al. decide to do.

We should be ashamed that people are even allowed to go within 10 feet of the entranceways given what’s gone on there over the years.

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