'YOU NEED TO TEACH YOUR KIDS RESPECT'
KAMLOOPS - A young Kamloops family is living together in a single bedroom after being denied several rental leases because of their son's developmental disabilities, including autism.
The family of four was forced to move into their parents' house after two rental agreements fell through in September, leaving them with no other options. The Leader family made agreements with two separate properties on the hunt for a new home and lost both because of perceived issues with their son's special needs. In one case, they signed a one-year lease, ready to move in but were told to rip it up. In the other home, they had keys, paid their damage deposit and were moving in when they were told to pack up and leave.
"She said you need to teach your kids respect," Laura Leader says. "They threw us on the streets."
Leader and her husband, both 25, were hoping to find a rental property closer to family at the top of Barnhartvale for help with their kids, two-year-old Tanner and four-year-old Jaxon. Jaxon requires constant care. He has a rare combination of medical ailments, including two genetic disorders, severe acid reflux, asthma and autism. He has little sense of taste or pain and finds communication difficult.
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They say one landlord said they would disrupt the existing tenant in the basement. At the other property in Valleyview, Jaxon stripped down to nothing and caused a scene in front of the owner before they got booted. Finally, they found a rental in Dallas that suited their needs. They were moving in when they got a call from the owner who told them she wouldn't tolerate the kids slamming cupboards and pushing buttons on the new dishwasher. They tried to explain Jaxon's needs, but then it got personal. They say the landlord accused them of hiding Jaxon's disabilities and of being 'ashamed' of him.
Wanda Carisse, executive director of the Chris Rose Therapy Centre for Autism in Kamloops, says the Leaders were under no obligation to disclose that information. Refusing to rent to someone because of a mental or physical disability is a violation of human rights in B.C.
"It's discriminatory to do that," Carisse says. "Why would they have to disclose that information?"
Carisse says the situation isn't typical—in 18 years, she's never encountered something similar. She says a little information and education can go a long way.
"We need to educate people when they don't understand a disability," Carisse says. Concerns about noise can be mitigated, she says.
The Leaders took their case to the Residential Tenancy Branch with mixed results. Their persistence landed them compensation for moving and storage, however it didn't cover the inconvenience or put a roof over their heads.
Numerous attempts to interview the landlords were ignored or refused. One returned email disputed the Leaders' version of events but refused to answer questions. The situation reminds the Leaders of the harmful remarks in a letter received by another parent of an autistic child that recently made headlines.
NOWHERE TO GO
With little hope, Leader called her inlaws for help.
"It was a lot of tears," she says. "I felt more sad than angry."
The four of them now live in one bedroom in their parents' home in Barnhartvale, far from work and the city. They've managed to fit after buying the kids a bunk bed and packing the majority of their belongings into the garage. It's not ideal, but they're making out OK, Leader says, and they're grateful they had family to fall back on.
Megan Leader, Laura's mother-in-law, said she's noticed a difference in the couple since they've moved in, with the extra family around to help. She doesn't intend on letting them move out anytime soon despite the squishy situation.
"We have to look at how it's impacting Jaxy," she said.
The elder Leaders are trying to sell their home and are planning to purchase a property large enough to accommodate a mobile home on the lot.
"It just doesn't seem right to us, but we always say things happen for a reason," she said. "We've always been really family-oriented, but it really put things into perspective."
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Part 2 - CLOSED DOOR: How an autistic child finds his way in - Infotel News