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Ramada Hotel to serve as temporary social housing

Neighbours, school PAC seeking clarification on use of former hotel

Neighbours of a proposed interim housing site at the old Ramada Hotel in Hastings-Sunrise want answers from the city at an open house Dec. 11.

The community learned in the last two weeks that temporary housing for formerly homeless and under-housed people is proposed for the property located a block from a preschool and elementary school on  East Hastings near Skeena.

“We are in support of supportive housing,” said Franklin elementary parent advisory council chairperson, nearby resident  and realtor Lara Davis.

“We want to make sure that the city is accountable to us. We want to know who the residents are going to be, that it’s the right mix for the community, who the operator is and, moving forward into the next phase of what they do with that building, we’d like some transparency and community input.”

Davis says city staff gave vague answers to Franklin’s parent advisory council.

Parents wanted to know whether residents of 3475 East Hastings St. would be screened for criminal records and for being known pedophiles, whether they would be permitted to use drugs or alcohol on site and whether there would be drug testing.

They also wanted to know what the residents would do during the day.

Davis said parents were told the housing initiative is a 10-month project until fall 2014 when 600 new units of permanent social housing will open. The neighbours want to be involved in future uses of the former Ramada when the project ends.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang said Monday that a “very experienced” operator would be announced Wednesday night.

He said the city chose to provide interim housing at this site because it was available, gives residents their own bathrooms and is close to transit.  

He said people selected for the building would not be at risk of harming themselves or others, are stable in recovery from addictions or are coping with physical problems. He said they need a transition from sleeping in a shelter to managing mostly on their own.

The city hopes to see people move in this month and wants 40 residents in the 60-room hotel.

“People will be moved in slowly and they’ll be moving in well-established social groups,” Jang said. “We used to take people and put them as soon as a bed was available What we’re doing is moving people over in groups or pairs so they have mutual

The facility will be staffed around the clock and residents will be provided two hot meals a day. Jang said nurses and social workers will support residents. The tenants are expected to participate in day programs at the hotel and elsewhere.

Whether they will be permitted to use drugs or alcohol at the hotel is being worked out with the building operator, according to Jang.

The city purchased the Ramada in September. Jang didn’t know how much the city has spent on “cosmetic” renovations.

He said the city couldn’t say how long the property would be used for interim housing.

A citizens’ group has started in an attempt to get the community’s concerns addressed.

Debra Nothstein, principal of Franklin elementary, plans to sit on the community advisory committee for the facility.

The open house will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at 3475 East Hastings.

This story has been edited since it was first posted.