Voices

Cheap hotels can be last line of defence

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Quietly, slowly, but surely, something is slipping away from us here in the capital. On the surface, the impending sale of 603 Pandora (containing among other things the Plaza Hotel and Monty’s strip club) is part of a fairly normal process. It’s happened before with the Holiday Court, the Douglas Hotel and the Traveller’s Inn franchises; it’ll happen again, right? Buildings change hands, old replaces new, we all move on.

Unfortunately for some, moving on isn’t an option. Hundreds of people rely on hotels like the Plaza and the Douglas to fill the gaps in shelter services or provide at least a temporary alternative to the streets. While you might not have booked the Holiday Court for yourself, someone had a roof over their head because of its existence.

More broadly, hotel space represents a last line of defence for families on the edge of homelessness. “If that housing resource dries up we’re going to be impacted — our families are going to be impacted by not having an emergency resource to access when they are in crisis, which is what we use hotels for,” says Tory Kincross of the Burnside-Gorge Community Centre.

Kincross adds that the lack of subsidized housing leaves families little choice but to stay in hotels or risk living on the street and consequently losing their children to custody.

“There simply isn’t enough safe, affordable housing in the Greater Victoria region for everyone who needs it,” she says. And so hotel space is essential in keeping families together and off the streets. “Until we come up with a better solution, this is the best option that we have, and it seems to be meeting certain needs until we can find something else.”

Now, let’s get one thing straight. This sort of shelter (particularly on the cheaper end) is far from ideal; it’s short term, it’s cramped and, if it’s not expensive, chances are it’s unsafe.

The capital’s reliance on tourism also ensures that you’re shit out of luck if you need somewhere to live during the summer months. In short, living in a hotel sucks — but it’s better than living on the street, it’s better than losing your kids and it’s the only option available to a lot of people. M

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