Housing in the neighbourhood – a view from the street
I’ve been in the DTES since 1995. I lived at Heritage House Hotel. It’s called the Lotus now. It was renting for $345 back then. Now it’s probably $550, if not more. I used to live in the Main Rooms. In 1998 it was $325. Now it’s $450. I used to live in the Princess Rooms as well.
A lot of the supportive housing places have really strict rules. You can’t say to a friend, “Come and visit me and have a cup of coffee.” It kind of violates your freedom in a sense. Even the businesses have changed. I remember the old fashioned Save on Meats. You could take $50 in there and fill your freezer with meat, cold cuts and everything. For 75 cents you could get enough bologna for 2 weeks. Now for $50 you walk out with about half a bag; it’s totally opposite.
I slept outside yesterday. Prior to that I was in jail for 18 days. Before the jail incident I was living at the Brandiz. It’s $400 there. They have cockroaches, mice, and bedbugs. I’d wake up getting eaten alive. There’s traffic in the hall constantly and people screaming. So I go stay in New West at Stevenson House, a shelter.
I’d like to live in this neighbourhood but in nice living conditions. Not where I have to worry about bottling my food to keep the cockroaches out or where you get eaten by bedbugs. I caught 9 mice at the Brandiz and got sick from the mouse urine and feces; so had to go to the doctor and get an inhaler.
I don’t expect a mansion but I’m not going back to the Brandiz. If you want to use the bathroom, there could be a big pile of diarrhea or it could be plugged up with needles; really disgusting.
My personal opinion on solving the housing issue is that we need good low-income housing. One thing I’ve learned since I’ve been in the DTES is that if you’re low income, doctors or social workers put you in a category. Even if you don’t have a drug addiction issue, you’re housed with someone who is a drug addict and you get labeled. I don’t judge people in their addictions. For one period of my life I was into it. Back then, the Stanley New Fountain made the Brandiz look like the Holiday Inn.
Here’s my idea. I think everyone should have housing. If you have a severe mental health issue you could be in a facility where you would have help, unless you can control it. If you don’t have drug or alcohol issues, you should be able to live in a place where there is some quietness.
I don’t like condos. I think they’re totally wrong. Not everyone has $450,000 in the bank to go and purchase one. It also stereotypes people. Here’s a rich guy: you can live here, and here’s a poor person: we’re gonna put you in this crummy dump. And these dumps are getting expensive. Take the Empress Hotel: they’ll slowly evict people and then the rent will go from $500 to $700. Like I said, I’d like to live here in good low-income housing, but it’s getting harder to find a decent place I can afford.