With a relentless winter wind cutting through the air, several people who say they’re just trying to survive on social assistance gathered outside of the Travelodge Suites in Dartmouth to try and desperately explain how they’re being “kicked out”.
“I don’t know what is going on but it’s completely unfair. Everything was fine and now we receive a letter, yesterday, mid-afternoon, that we all have to leave by tomorrow at noon,” said Mikki Rhyno, a single mother.
Rhyno says she and her five young children were placed to the Travelodge in Dartmouth by the provincial community services department.
She says she and several other people who are trying to survive on income assistance have placements in the hotel.
Rhyno says she came home to find a letter under her door, informing her that “unfortunately” her room is unable to be extended past Friday, Feb. 21.
She and other several people on social assistance received the letter, telling them to “reach out to their case workers for further arrangements”.
“My children are completely off balance, they’re not on schedule, they don’t sleep properly. Myself, I’m not eating properly. This is an extremely stressful situation as it is, to be placed in a hotel and be in a two-bedroom place with my five young children,” Rhyno said.
Andrew Moore, the general manager of the Travelodge Suites Dartmouth location, wouldn’t interview on-camera but says the letter isn’t an eviction notice.
The people staying at the hotel through community services aren’t tenants, they’re guests, he said.
Moore says they have a “busy season coming up” and that they need the rooms.
As for the hotel’s arrangement with community services, Moore says Travelodge head office is “cutting ties”.
“The Travelodge Dartmouth has come to the decision to end our dealings with community services. Community services case workers had been informed of this earlier in the week as to be able to reach out to their clients,” Moore wrote in an email.
As far as Moore is aware, the “departing guests” have reservations with other hotel properties in the city.
Rhyno and others say they aren’t aware of any other reservations.
“Now, all of a sudden that the busy season is coming up, we’re trash, we’re supposed to get out. So, we’re on our own basically, I have two kids in there and a dog in there,” said Rebecca Sparks, another single mother living in the hotel through social assistance.
Sparks says even though she has a case worker trying to find a place for her family to live, there are next to no options in a city where affordable housing is a major issue.
“It’s going to be hell for me. With the poverty and the homelessness that’s going on in the city right now. You can’t call a shelter, you can’t split your family up, I have a boy and a girl,” Sparks said.
Community Services Minister Kelly Regan says her department is aware of the developing situation in Dartmouth.
“These are clients of community services and so anytime we hear of an incident like this, we have our caseworkers reach out and they will work with that family to ensure they have other accommodation.”
Meanwhile, Dartmouth North MLA, Susan Leblanc says her office has been “inundated” with social service clients desperately trying to find housing since the summer.
“The province has to take some real action on affordable housing. We have a very low vacancy rate in HRM and in the province. So, there’s no where for people to go, especially if they have low incomes.”