Offended by the message

A single mother is shocked that her Red Deer home is officially identified as affordable housing after a government sign boasting Canada’s Economic Action Plan was staked on the front lawn.

Priscilla Ristau says she is shocked that a government sign advertising her home as an affordable housing project has appeared on the front lawn of her duplex unit. She says identifying the unit stigmatizes the people who live inside.

Priscilla Ristau says she is shocked that a government sign advertising her home as an affordable housing project has appeared on the front lawn of her duplex unit. She says identifying the unit stigmatizes the people who live inside.

A single mother is shocked that her Red Deer home is officially identified as affordable housing after a government sign boasting Canada’s Economic Action Plan was staked on the front lawn.

Red Deer College social work student Priscilla Ristau returned to her duplex in Normandeau recently to find the sign, advertising a joint provincial-federal investment in affordable housing, outside her and her next-door neighbour’s duplex property.

The sign pictures a woman wearing bright green smiling down on a child.

Ristau, a 31-year-old mother of one child, says she was offended by the sign because she believes this form of publicity will only stigmatize the residents there.

“I believe I have a right to privacy,” said Ristau.

“And I also believe it’s wrong to put these signs on the lawns of people who live in affordable housing and pointing out where our vulnerable people are.”

Ristau has enjoyed anonymity since moving last July to the unit, which is managed by Red Deer Housing.

“I was given a home in a community and which isn’t defined,” she said. “I felt very respected by that and now that’s been taken away from me.”

Ristau decided to speak out because she wonders how many other people with these signs feel the same way. She has seen other signs pop up around the neighbourhood.

“Why are there political signs being put up on people’s lawns without any consultation?” Ristau said.

“I understand I live on a property owned by the provincial government and is mandated through Red Deer Housing. But I don’t feel that should automatically mean that I get to be used in that capacity.”

Even if she was consulted first, Ristau said she still would have objected to the sign.

Dorothy Schreiber, spokeswoman for Alberta Housing and Urban Affairs, said the sign will come down within 90 days of any finished repairs or renovations of the duplex unit.

She said the signs are required to be posted as part of federal requirements.

The federal government provided $45 million for renovations and repairs of existing provincially owned and supported housing, money that was then matched by the province, Schreiber added.

Besides Ristau’s concerns, the province received one other complaint from a resident.

“These signs are going up across the country,” Schreiber said.

Scott Deederly, constituency assistant for Red Deer Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen, spoke with Ristau and said he “completely understands her point of view.”

He passed Ristau’s concerns onto Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., which is dispensing the housing funds on behalf of Ottawa.

Teresa Amoroso, spokeswoman for CMHC, said the signs are in keeping with federal communications policy to “allow the public to see the government at work, access its programs and services, and assess its activities.”

“However, we acknowledge the concerns that have been identified and are consulting with the province and project sponsor to ensure that any recognition of government support, including signage, is appropriate for this particular project,” Amoroso said.

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