Eighty-two-year-old Fran Flann never thought she would end up at a homeless shelter.
The senior was working part-time at a dry cleaner in Kitsilano when she collapsed from pneumonia just before Christmas.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to go in for surgery.
After she was discharged from hospital, Flann found out she could not go back home because her rental apartment was being treated for bed bugs.
She was initially sent to a North Vancouver motel, the cost of which was covered for one week.
But after the money ran out, Flann had no choice but to go to a homeless shelter.
She was placed in a small room with a bunk bed, a chair and coffee table, and while the room is clean and shelter staff are nice, Flann says there is no place like home.
She says the shelter gets noisy and she was disturbed by marijuana smoke coming through her window.
“I don’t think anybody else would put up with it for more than a day,” she says. “I think I am just too stubborn and too tough and determined to put this across.”
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Flann says she decided to go public with her story so that more people understand the plight of many seniors in the province.
“There are a lot of people like me out there,” says Flann. “There are not enough resources, there are people on the streets sleeping, there are people my age sleeping in their cars, I found out. Who is helping them?”
Flann can’t go back home for a few weeks, but since her story was first reported, many people have reached out and offered help. That support means she can go back to the motel she was staying in.
“I just can’t believe it,” says Flann, fighting back tears. “I did not realize there were so many good people out there. The people that are doing it, I don’t even know them…Many people like myself are offering help. It opens your eyes, really.”
Bailey Mumford is the manager of North Shore Services for the Lookout Emergency Aid Society and oversees the shelter Flann was sent to. He says while they tried to make her stay as comfortable as possible, the shelter is no place for a recovering cancer patient in her 80s.
“It’s unfortunate that we are seeing more and more seniors coming through our shelters,” says Mumford. “They are highly vulnerable and we do whatever we can to accommodate them while they are here, but we are also looking into finding more appropriate housing for them.”
He says Flann’s case is by no means unique.
“This is evidence of a trend that we have been seeing for a long time: seniors are showing up at our shelters more and more,” he says. “They are losing their housing due to renovations, demolitions and the increase in housing inaffordability.”