City Council sets up Task Force on SRO Maintenance

On July 14 City Council voted to set up a Task Force on maintenance standards in hotels.  The motion came two weeks after the Carnegie Community Action Project, DTES Neighbourhood Council, VANDU and tenants of the Wonder and Palace Hotels spoke to council about deplorable conditions in those two buildings and others.

At the Council meeting DNC volunteer Richard Marquez, who has been helping Wonder tenants find decent housing, spoke about the Code Enforcement Outreach Program in San Francisco.  With that program hotel tenants get stipends to work with community groups and city property use inspectors to keep building maintenance standards up to par.

Al Fowler, a former Wonder Rooms tenant, told Council that tenants should be on the Task Force and about how hard it is to find an affordable place to stay.

Jean Swanson of CCAP put forward recommendations of the DNC, CCAP and VANDU that the Task Force should include these groups:  Power of Women, DNC, VANDU, CCAP, Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction, TRAC, Aboriginal Front Door, Pivot,

Native Health, and SRO tenants.  She also said that it should recommend procedures, policies and bylaws the city will implement to upgrade living standards in SROs.  Councillor Ellen Woodsworth amended the motion to include these points and they were accepted.

So….soon we should have a Task Force on SRO maintenance and maybe it could have some good results.

Council also passed another resolution on the same day to set up a working group with a number of professional groups and “other stakeholders” to address alleged abuses at the Wonder and Palace Hotels.

Vivienne  Bessette of VANDU told Council that the methadone treatment system has failed because no consumer groups have been there to talk about the abuses.  “If the [working group] doesn’t include users it could do more harm than good.”  She added, “VANDU is expert in addictions.  Doctors are not always experts in addiction.”

Charlie Boyle of the BC Association of People on Methadone also argued that methadone users should be included in the methadone working group.

Dave Murray said there were 2000 Downtown Eastside residents on methadone and 11,000 in the province.  He said that VANDU and BC APOM have to be on the working group.  This time, however, the motion was not changed to add in the two groups.  Although Councillor Kerry Jang said in his remarks that they would be consulted.  So, the city is now going to have a working group on methadone maintenance abuses that is dominated by professionals and where user groups will hopefully be consulted. ~js

This task force wouldn’t have happened without the work of Ivan Drury of CCAP, volunteers like Richard Marquez and residents of the Wonder and Palace Hotels who, at a previous council meeting, spoke out at council despite threat of eviction and launched a class action suit against the landlords.