Zora Hlevnjak faces eviction from her Sidney apartment after depositing money raised from empty cans and donations. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

B.C. woman refuses to pay overdue rent based on income raised collecting empty cans

Portion that Zora Hlevnjak pays for subsidized rent went up after she reported more of her income

A 76-year-old woman in the Victoria area who collects empty cans to supplement her pension faces eviction after her rent was raised to include her income from the cans.

Zora Hlevnjak, a familiar figure in the community of Sidney, will be evicted on Jan. 21 from her subsidized housing unit because of failure to pay $1,087 for three months’ worth of rent following a rent increase.

Beacon Community Services, the organization that operates Wakefield Manor, raised Hlevnjak’s rent to 30 per cent of her income after she deposited money raised from collecting empty cans and donations from passersby.

Hlevnjak said she has formally challenged having to pay the rent, arguing the money from cans and donations does not qualify as income, and that she does not benefit from it because she sends it to her family in Croatia.

“I knew [the rules], but my mind doesn’t allow me to accept to pay [back-rent] from empties and from people that give me money for food,” she told Black Press Media over the course of two interviews. “I didn’t spend it and I don’t even have that money. I sent it to my people.”

Hlevnjak said she gets about $1,500 from the federal government through various pensions, and routinely sends money, including can deposits, to family members in Croatia every year since she came to Canada in 1966.

RELATED: More people are being evicted from subsidized housing in Victoria, experts say

A friend who accompanied her on the interview suggested she start looking after herself rather than others in a distant country, especially with rent due.

But Hlevnjak said her landlords don’t deserve the money. “They didn’t work hard for it. It was [a] gift for me.”

Tim O’Brien, who manages the building where she has lived since 2004, said tenants in subsidized housing must pay 30 per cent of their income towards rent, which is the affordable standard throughout the province

“We didn’t raise the rent. She just started to report her proper income,” he said, adding that tenants must also submit income tax statements, bank statements, and Service Canada statements each year to establish the 30-per-cent portion.

“Please understand – it’s not my choice to evict her,” O’Brien said. “We are not in the eviction business. We are in the accommodation business, helping and serving those who are less fortunate and who require subsidized housing.”

RELATED: New report finds many Sidney residents struggle with housing affordability

Hlevnjak says she blames herself for her situation. “I stupidly put in bank because I was afraid of fire and thieves.”

She repeated that she hasn’t used any money from cans or passersby. “I didn’t even spent five cents on my birthday,” said the woman, whose clothing hardly suggests a life in the lap of luxury.

She also acknowledged that she has trouble remembering things and admits to feeling stressed by the situation.

But her defiant tone and decision to seek legal support suggests the issue is far from settled.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Just Posted

Hospital chief of staff provides a COVID-19 update; face coverings available for free starting this weekend

Vigilance needed; face coverings soon to be available throughout valley

Invermere mayor says bill payments can wait and asks visitors to please stay home

Al Miller provides an update on the District of Invermere and COVID-19.

Social distancing for wildlife, please

Outdoor photographers urge humans not to get too close to local wildlife.

RCMP and COVID-19 orders

Weekly Columbia Valley RCMP report

DTSS calls for self-isolation yearbook photo submissions

DTSS seeking photos of students doing their favourite self-isolation activities

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Sanders drops 2020 bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee

Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday

B.C. faith leaders, Horgan discuss need for virtual religious ceremonies

Leaders were open to providing other ways to celebrate during the pandemic

Emergency COVID-19 funding now available for children with special needs

Funding to be used to help support families through uncertain times of pandemic

Revenue dip needed to qualify for wage subsidy drops to 15% in March: Trudeau

Wage subsidy would over 75% of each employee’s salary for qualifying businesses

B.C. closes all provincial parks for COVID-19 protection

Easter weekend approaches, camping already closed

Air Canada says it will apply for wage subsidy to rehire workers after cutting 16,500 jobs

Air Canada said March revenues fell by more than 30 per cent year over year

Most Read