How do you quantify the pride that shows up in every detail of the seniors’ building at Snelgrove? From the cleanliness of the immaculate foyer, to the décor that individualizes each apartment, to the collage of snapshots of last summer’s BBQ hanging on the main office door. If you look closely at the collage, you’ll see Mandeep Sangha, the Tenant Support Agent of this building, smiling with the tenants she takes such good care of.
When you step into Theresa Miller’s home, you’ll find it decorated with sentimental knick-knacks that hint of her homeland, Holland. We were lucky enough to spend an hour with Mandeep and Theresa to listen to the story of how their lives intersected at a pivotal time for Theresa.
Here's Theresa's story
Theresa, the youngest of 12 children, emigrated from Holland to Peel in 1966 because her sister had Multiple Sclerosis and she wanted to be here to help with her sister’s young family. When her sister passed away, Theresa went on to marry and start a family of her own. She had one son – her “Brad Pitt”. Theresa worked at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto for many years and was a deli manager at a popular hotspot on Bloor Street West. She put herself on the wait list for affordable seniors’ housing at age 60 and, after a few years on that list, found her way to the home we’re meeting in today. She is the first tenant to have lived in this space and, put simply, “I’m just very, very happy,” she said.
“This is my home,” she states with a smile, “and Mandeep is terrific.” Mandeep and Theresa have known each other for six years, meeting when Mandeep became the Tenant Support Agent for this building.
It feels like they had an instant connection. “I believe our seniors should be treated as we would treat our own parents,” said Mandeep. “Theresa has hip replacement surgery coming up in 101 days,” she said with the certainty of a student counting down the number of days until summer break. There are some modifications required to her bathtub, so that re-entry back home from the hospital is easier. “I know you’re going to take care of me,” Theresa said, as Mandeep jots down a reminder note about those tub tweaks.
This is my home... and Mandeep is terrific.
If not for the open communication Mandeep facilitates, Theresa wouldn’t have the platform to share such simple, yet life altering information. A simple adjustment like this will allow Theresa to age-in-place, in a home she loves, surrounded by neighbours and friends who provide the security and connection of community.
“We provide the tools to empower that sense of community but if the tenants don’t work with us, we’re useless,” explained Mandeep. “We end up spending less money on maintaining the building because the tenants care.”
It’s the opposite of a vicious cycle. It’s a virtuous cycle.
“I feel a relationship with my tenants right from the start. From the very first day they come with their families to choose their home, I am invested. I know I will look after them. We all want the feeling of being able to give back. That’s what my job at the Region is. But I only get to have this fantastic job because of the tenants. Because of them I get to have the life I have,” said Mandeep, just before Theresa gives her a big bear hug.
In a Tenant Support Agent’s job description, you won’t find “treat your tenant like she’s family”.
In a tenant’s lease agreement, you won’t find “take care of your neighbours”.
Yet it happens every day, quietly and beautifully.