Residents of a Vancouver SRO, or single-room occupancy hotel, say the elevator in their building has been broken for nine months.
The St. Helen’s Hotel on Granville Street has 93 units but the building’s lone elevator has been out of order since last summer, which makes getting around a challenge for residents, many of whom have mobility issues or mental health and addiction issues.
One of the residents, Justin Brown, uses a cane to walk and struggles with the stairs in the building.
He told Global News the doors to the elevator are broken and water and fire damage in the building has caused the elevator motor to stop working.
“We’ve been waiting,” he said. “They keep telling us it’s going to be fixed soon. When?”
The St. Helen’s Hotel is owned by the B.C. government through BC Housing and is operated by the Atira Women’s Society.
Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society, told Global News the issue is with safety boots.
“Those safety boots had to be manufactured in Italy,” she said. “They were ordered at the end of last summer and they arrived last week. So the elevator company is scheduled to install them sometime this week. But we’ve also been given a heads-up by the elevator company that the safety boots may not solve the problem or if they do solve the problem, it will likely be a temporary fix. So likely, the elevator will have to be replaced.”
All elevators have safety shoes on them, which prevent the doors from opening and closing when the elevator car hits something or comes into contact with something.
Abbott said it was not acceptable that the elevator has been out of commission for so long. She said that while Atria manages the building, it does not own the building, therefore the decision to replace or make major repairs to the elevator is not Atria’s decision.
“We’ve done everything we can,” Abbott added. “We’re not licenced elevator contractors so we cannot fix the elevator ourselves. We have to rely on our contractors.”
She said she wished decisions could be made faster by the governing bodies who own these buildings.
“Atria has done everything in its power to get this elevator fixed,” Abbott added. “Everything in its power.”
But it is still a frustrating experience for residents of St. Helen’s who call the building home.
The building currently has nine safety issues recorded by the City of Vancouver.
All of them relate to the fire bylaw and Abbott said the fire panel was recently replaced to deal with the fire infractions.
“BC Housing is aware of the issues and is up-to-date,” she added.
Meanwhile, Brown said he struggles every day to get up and down the stairs.
“I’ve fallen down a few times,” he said. “It is difficult for me to walk around here with having to go up and down four storeys of stairs every day. My injury is getting progressively worse, not better. And yes, despite all the help that I’ve been getting, it’s just not enough.”
Brown added that he has done everything he can for himself to make his life easier and if the elevator was fixed, he thinks it would improve his quality of life.
“It shouldn’t be dangerous for me to go home,” he said.
“I’m choked. At first, I was told it’ll be fixed soon. It’ll be fixed soon. And then we were told at the end of the summer it’ll be fixed by, by the end of October. And then October came around and they still weren’t working on it and it was the end of November and they told us would be fixed by the new year.”
The B.C. government said it has now commissioned an independent review of the way single-room occupancy hotels are operated in the province.
When asked about the issue on Monday, Premier David Eby said SROs are not “fit housing.”
“We need to have a plan for phasing out these SROs and replacing them with dignified housing and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Eby said the lengthy process is not acceptable to British Columbians but it is going to take some time to make real change.