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New funding will help improve lives of SRO residents in Vancouver

May 18, 2023 at 3:45 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

More people living in single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels in Vancouver will be able to access improved services and supports through a provincial grant of $11 million to the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society (SRO-C).

SRO-C is a non-profit organization working to improve habitability, affordability, safety, health and housing security for tenants living in privately owned SROs who are at risk of eviction and homelessness.

“Funding community-driven supports is another example of how our government is strengthening services and supporting the most vulnerable people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “People living in SROs know best how to support their fellow tenants and peers, and we are proud to help provide tools to support vital programming for fire safety and overdose prevention. Ultimately, this funding is about people helping people.”

The one-time grant will support tenant-based programming through training provided by SRO-C over three years. In contrast to supportive housing models, which employ multiple full-time on-site staff, SRO-C offers life-skills training to tenants who live in SRO buildings, allowing tenants to be active participants in making their homes better places to live while strengthening connections to their peers and the wider community.

More than 2,700 tenants in more than 50 privately owned SRO hotels are expected to be supported by these training programs, including:

  • cleaning and repairs for rooms and common areas;
  • tenant committees and support for eviction prevention for each building;
  • wellness checks, harm reduction and overdose prevention and reversal;
  • community kitchens for food services;
  • Indigenous cultural connections and support for Chinese seniors in SROs; and
  • fire safety and extreme weather response.

“Privately owned SRO hotels are a last resort before homelessness,” said Wendy Pedersen, executive director, SRO-C. “Our tenant-based initiatives empower tenants to improve habitability and help their neighbours in their building. This makes their homes nicer, safer and it helps prevent eviction into homelessness. Tenants are building communities in their hotels and also getting connected to a wider community of support.”

The funding is part of government’s ongoing work with its partners to create a comprehensive Downtown Eastside response plan. Through the plan, more than 100 people sheltering outside on East Hastings Street have accepted housing offers and moved into safe homes, while an additional 330 units of housing are opening for people in the Downtown Eastside.

The Province is making a $19-billion housing investment to deliver more homes for people in B.C. Since 2017, the Province has delivered more than 74,000 new homes, including more than 8,100 homes in Vancouver.

Quotes:

Jean-Guy Gagnon, peer worker, SRO-C –

“Before there wasn’t much going on here, but now there is more communication among us tenants and we’re getting to know each other more. We have barbecues, we get into people’s rooms and help them with their problems, and we explain why they need to clean their room. They feel better afterwards when their room is clean and the building gets safer. We have good tenants in the building, and we want to keep them. Some have bipolar, and we have to help them out. We can’t just let them get evicted and die. They are all good people.”    

Jersey Bruining, program co-ordinator, SRO-C –

“I have been doing this work for the past three years. I help tenants organize themselves around fire prevention, housekeeping, to full-on room repairs. With this funding, we can now begin more structures to help tenants gain access to the services and improve habitability. This resource will not only aid in training our team to further develop their own trades skills with each other, but also assist and protect vulnerable tenants who are most at risk of eviction. Tenant networks and their relationships are growing in positive ways.”    

Learn More:

To read government’s new Homes for People action plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Homes_For_People.pdf

To read Belonging in BC, government’s homelessness plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BelongingStrategy.pdf

To learn about the steps the Province is taking to improve access to housing and supports in the Downtown Eastside, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HOUS0022-000392

A map showing the location of all announced housing projects funded by the Province is  available online: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC

To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/

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