30 people looking for new homes
© Derek Montague
A former Newman's resident holds a garbage bag of her belongings after moving out of Newman’s
After nearly 30 years of providing shelter to those most desperately in need, Newman’s Boarding House in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is now officially closed.
Around 5 p.m. on Monday, April 14, the 30 or so residents ate the last meal ever served at Newman’s: a feed of Mary Brown’s chicken. Then they were told, as of the next morning, the boarding house could no longer serve them.
Terry Newman, son of boarding house owners Leonard and Nona Newman, says his family has been left with little support over the years. Now, because of financial constraints and lack of resources, the Newman’s have no choice but to close down.
“The last few days, we didn’t know what to do,” said Newman. “For years, (Leonard) has been reaching out to get help for upkeep, but can’t get it.”
The residents of Newman’s Boarding House are, for the most part, low income and have nowhere else to turn.
Newman says calling it a boarding house is actually misleading. It has become Labrador’s de facto homeless shelter.
“For years, it’s been a homeless shelter,” said Newman. “My parents call it a boarding house but it’s not a boarding house.”
Newman claims that the provincial government and others in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay community have not done enough to help keep the boarding house functional.
One of the biggest problems facing the boarding house is money. According to Newman, major investments would be needed to do repairs to the rundown property and maintain day-to-day operations.
“This place has been mortgaged twice,” said Newman.
“It’s financially broke. My parents are old. They can’t keep it up.”
The Newman family has operated the boarding house since its existence. Terry, who is one of seven siblings, says they all took their turn in helping their mother and father run the place over the years.
Between 2007 and 2012 Newman helped his parents with operating the boarding house. He claims he did it all voluntarily, without receiving any wages.
But now, says Newman, who took over responsibility of running the boarding house from his ailing father just days ago, the responsibility and the cost of the boarding house has become too much. Amongst its duties, the boarding house was responsible for feeding the 30 residents, without any cooks or serving staff.
Newman claims that he and his family have been looking for more financial support and resources over the years from social services to run the place.
According to Newman, his family was told recently by social services that they could receive an extra $100 per resident a month. But that wouldn’t come close to providing the support needed to operate the boarding house.
“I walked into the head of social services and said, ‘As of five o’clock (April 14), we’ve served our last meal,’” said Newman.
Newman and his family were hoping that, at some point, the boarding house could have been turned over to a charitable organization. But the two buildings need so much work done it no longer seems viable.
“We looked at what was here … we don’t know where to begin,” said Newman.
“We’re so far behind in the game, we just had to let it go.”
Newman wants the people of Happy Valley-Goose Bay to know that his parents, Leonard and Nona, never became rich off this venture. They opened up the house out of compassion for those in need of a home.
“There’s been a lot of (negative) things said about my parents,” said Newman.
“My parents shouldered this burden for 30 years. I don’t know if there’s been a year where they broke even.”
Looking for shelter
For the residents who stayed at Newman’s, the news came as a shock. Between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. this morning, they were grabbing garbage bags and whatever else they could find to pack their belongings.
A minibus came by to take them to the Salvation Army, where they were given breakfast.
Some of Newman’s former residents have found places to stay, temporarily, with boyfriends, girlfriends, or family members. Others don’t know where to turn at all.
Even for those who have found temporary lodging, the future is still uncertain.
Donna Priddle, who has been living at Newman’s off and on for three years, will be staying with her boyfriend for the first night. But, beyond that, the future is uncertain.
“I felt really disappointed. I think they could have given us, at least, a month’s notice,” said Priddle.
William Lucy, who had been living at Neman’s for four years after moving from Hopedale, doesn’t know where he will be sleeping. Unlike Priddle, he doesn’t know of anyone in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to stay with.
“I feel like I’m lost like an animal,” said Lucy.
“It’s heartbreaking. (Staying at Newman’s) was good. I never had a place to stay in Hopedale and they took me in at Newman’s.”
The high demand and cost of apartments in Happy Valley-Goose Bay will make the search for a new home that much more difficult. One young resident of Newman’s Boarding House says he moved into Newman’s when things weren’t working out at home, and there were no apartments to be found.
“I was trying to find a place to stay but couldn’t find anything affordable,” he said.
“Mr. Newman let me move in there.”
The young lodger said it wasn’t always easy staying at the boarding house. Many of his fellow boarders have personal issues, which often lead to unpleasant situations.
“It was alright for the first while but then there were confrontations and arguments and stuff.”