An estimated 400 hotel rooms in the Downtown Eastside are vacant and could be upgraded cheaply and turned into temporary shelters for people who are homeless on the street.

According to estimates by the Carnegie Community Action Project these units are available in privately owned buildings such as the Dominion Hotel, American Hotel, Argyle Hotel, Backpacker Hotel, Evergreen Hotel and Piccadilly Hotel.  “None of these places will provide suitable long term accommodation,” says CCAP’s Wendy Pedersen, “but they could be equipped with proper fire and electrical safety, painted, and opened with good management to homeless Downtown Eastside residents.

According to the latest count by the Metro Vancouver Homeless Count, 383 people were homeless on the street on March 11 in the Downtown Eastside.  Another 276 were homeless and living in shelters in the area.  The homeless count is universally recognized to be an undercount.

“The city and BC Housing should be getting short term leases with private hotel owners to upgrade and manage these buildings as shelters for the homeless,” said Pedersen.  The government has paid for 2 studies which say it is cheaper for the government to house homeless people than maintain homelessness.  “The province has a Housing Endowment Fund of $250 million sitting in a bank in Victoria and the city has millions to spend on Olympic festivities,” says Pedersen.

“We are challenging all council and mayoral candidates to say what they will to do match up empty hotel rooms with homeless people,” said Pedersen.   “This is a challenge to candidates to provide temporary shelter until governments build adequate self contained housing for the 5000 SRO residents and all homeless people in the Downtown Eastside,” Pedersen stated.

All SRO’s should be seen as temporary shelters because they are tiny and have no washroom or kitchen.  They are not the type of permanent housing that helps people put down roots in a community.  Decent social housing with 400 sq ft, kitchens and bathrooms helps people get secure in the neighbourhood so they can be part of a community.