A long-term shelter resident became ill. he was sent packing

Colin Desjarlais is focused on caring for his diabetic leg ulcer and preventing possible amputation.

But it has been difficult to keep on top of his wound care regimen, he says, because in mid-June he was abruptly told he would have to leave the Chinatown shelter where he had lived for six months.

The owner of the Main Hostel at 927 Main St. says her building is set up as a backpacker hostel, not a long-term residence.

Lorraine Shorrock told The Tyee that the building was no longer suitable for Desjarlais to live in because he had difficulty walking and there was no elevator. She didn’t think her staff should have to clean bloody sheets from her room, and Shorrock said her room was small and had very little air circulation.

“He had some pretty serious foot problems, they were bleeding most of the time,” Shorrock said. “I said to [the building manager]My God, it’s not your job to change the damn sheets every night. This is hospital work, and this is a hostel. When travelers travel, they are healthy, this is not healthy.

“It was suggested that he needed a place that would suit him better.”

Desjarlais never signed a lease, but he moved into the shelter in January and lived there continuously, paying $261 a week. He said the arrangement worked out well for him because he was moving back to BC from Ontario and receiving Canada’s emergency response benefit while dealing with medical issues that prevented him from working.

A diabetic ulcer is an open sore that can affect people with diabetes and can lead to serious infection or amputation. Desjarlais said that he too has a heart problem and that he had to undergo treatment and surgery for ruptured eye vessels three months ago.

But he said that as his health problems worsened, the building’s staff began to make living there uncomfortable for him. He said the building manager took the refrigerator from his room, which he used to store his insulin.

While Shorrock said Desjarlais was given an alternative space to store his medication in a refrigerator in the building manager’s apartment, Desjarlais said that was not the case. He went to great lengths to keep the insulin cold in his room, but ended up losing two boxes of the medication that cost him $150.

At one point, the manager told him he had a week to get out of his room, he said.

“I refused,” Desjarlais said. “I was biting the bullet and dragging, because you can’t do this to someone with a disability. He is against the law.”

Desjarlais, who is Cree Métis and grew up in Manitoba, said she has experienced racism and discrimination many times in her life. He believes that he was discriminated against in this case because he has a disability.

Fearing he might be homeless, Desjarlais said he went to the Carnegie Community Center and connected with a housing outreach team who helped him get a room at the Hotel Ivanhoe, a one-room occupancy hotel across the street from the Main Hostel. But Desjarlais says the stress of having to move and being pressured to leave took a toll on his health.

Shorrock said it was she who helped Desjarlais get a room at the Ivanhoe, not Carnegie’s outreach team. But Desjarlais said that is not what happened.

Last year, The Tyee reported in another attempted eviction at the main shelter that was stopped after tenant advocates intervened. Qui Ling Chen had signed a lease agreement with the previous owner, but Shorrock claimed that the agreement was invalid.

After The Tyee reported the attempted eviction, the Residential Tenancy Branch’s law enforcement unit contacted Chen and Shorrock to confirm that Chen had not been evicted. The enforcement unit shared information about BC’s Residential Leasing Law with Shorrock and closed its file, according to the Residential Leasing Branch.

Shorrock said his business is to provide short-term accommodation for tourists, and Chen and Desjarlais don’t fit that business model.

While Desjarlais said most of the other residents of the main hostel are also long-term residents, Shorrock denied this, saying the only people who have stayed for several months have been international students caught up in COVID-19 restrictions that They have been prevented from traveling. .

The main lodge building is valued at $5.9 million by the BC Assessment. Shorrock also owns the St. Clair Hostel on Richards Street, valued at $5.7 million.

While the building has typical single room occupancy rooms with shared bathrooms, Shorrock said it is not classified as an SRO building and does not have to comply with the City of Vancouver’s single room accommodation statute. City of Vancouver staff have confirmed that the building is classified as a hotel.

However, provincial residential tenure laws may have applied to Desjarlais’ tenure.

According to the Residential Leasing Branch, the law does not apply to vacation or travel accommodation, but may apply if the resident has sole possession of a hotel room and the room is the person’s principal and permanent home. . The Residential Leasing Branch also takes into account the length of stay.

While there is a requirement that landlords prepare a written agreement for each lease, even if the landlord does not prepare one, the tenant and landlord still have the same rights and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancy Law. To fight the attempted eviction, Desjarlais would have to file a complaint with the Residential Leasing Branch.

Robert Patterson of the Renter Counseling and Resource Center, a Vancouver-based organization that supports renters, said lack of clarity about legal status under the law can hurt renters in different types of housing.

“There is a large area, and some housing providers want it to be more gray,” he said. “It allows them to kick someone out with much less notice.”

Government-financed transitional housing is also exempt from the provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act. But Patterson pointed out that some people may end up staying in the same house for long periods, effectively making it their home.

Desjarlais said he was relieved to be able to move into a room at the Ivanhoe, but is still upset and angry about how he was treated at the Main.

“For the most part, it was a safe and clean space,” he said of his room at the shelter.

This article was originally published on The Tyee, an independent, reader-supported online news magazine based in BC Click here for more original and detailed reports and register for our free daily newsletter.

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