Controversial Vancouver homeless plan for former Quality Inn draws huge crowds and ire

WATCH: The city of Vancouver is planning to turn a former hotel into housing for the homeless. And that was the focus of a heated public meeting on Wednesday. Jeremy Hunka reports.

More than 200 people turned out for the City of Vancouver’s community meeting tonight, where according to some attendees, things became intense and heated. The focus of the meeting was the city’s highly controversial decision to turn the former Quality Inn Hotel into transitional housing for the homeless.

“It’s going to create a huge transient community in this particular neighbourhood,” Jason Christensen, a resident of the neighbourhood said.

“As people know, there are many types of projects like this around this neighbourhood, [the Quality Inn] being the absolute largest. And yes, it’s going to be a huge transient community with people that don’t have a tie to the neighbourhood or really much, perhaps, to lose.”
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The city made the deal in September to lease the building for two years, before it’s demolished for redevelopment. The former Quality Inn Hotel located on Howe Street will have 157 units available for the homeless.

Residents, some of which were turned away due to the room being over capacity, were in attendance tonight to voice their concerns over the transitional building causing a possible increase in noise, drugs and crime in the area.

Veronica Madore, who banded together with other concerned residents to form the group called Save Our Neighbourhood, told Aaron McArthur on PRIME that she was not aware the Quality Inn transitional housing was a done deal.

“We didn’t know it was a done deal, we just started to find out about it a few weeks ago,” Madore said.

“There was no public consultation, as per their bylaws and as per their rules and regulations and their practices. So the opposition is required and quite frankly, we were hoping to stop it because this makes no sense.”

Worries were already high ever since the city created a homeless shelter at the former Kettle of Fish location at 900 Pacific Avenue earlier this month.

Some residents said since the shelter was created, they have seen an increase in needles and people with drug issues hanging out in the neighbourhood parks near the pre-school and day care area. The Kettle of Fish shelter is set to stay open until April 2015.

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The city has chosen the Community Builders Group, who run nine other supportive units in Vancouver and have been in business for 10 years, to operate the Quality Inn location. The agency was hoping tonight’s meeting would provide a platform for residents to hear their plan for housing the 157 people.

“They will be offered security and tenant support and it won’t be a small amount of staff looking after the residents,” Julie Roberts, from the Community Builders Group said.

“We were hopeful that we could hear from the concerned residents about what their fears were and how we could change the course of how we run the building to best suit this unique community.”

Roberts went on to say that in their experience they “do find that once [homeless] people have a safe home to live in, generally some of these worries aren’t really founded”  and while there are exceptions to the rule, “for the most part once people get into the building, they really do take ownership… and it is a safe and secure place.”

So does tonight’s consultation have any weight and will what was voiced by residents change anything?

“I do think [the community meeting] carries weight,” Roberts explained and said that “it’s not a done deal on how the building will be operated or who gets selected to be in the building.”
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However, she was also quick to point out the city is set to run the Quality Inn as a transitional housing building for the next two years and she doesn’t think the meeting is going to change that decision.

Moving forward residents like Madore are planning to continue to rally, while the city will be holding another community meeting for those who couldn’t attend tonight’s session.