Physical distancing for the Covid-19 virus has been an issue in the impoverished Downtown Eastside of Vancouver where the street functions as the community’s living room.  Many residents of this area live in the SROs’ (single room occupant) hotels in the area. These offer a room with a shared bathroom for the entire floor.

CBC’s Angela Jung has written this article indicating that the City of Vancouver is reserving hotel rooms for individuals who are homeless or using shelters that may need physical isolation  because of the Covid-19 virus.

The City has been working with Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Housing to co-ordinate care and support for the downtown eastside community.

Existing services have been sharply curtailed because of the Covid-19 virus, including places where people could get food or use the washroom. While the City has added 12 handwashing stations in the area, they have not provided any toilets for local residents to use.  Of the handwashing stations, four have already been stolen, and three have been recovered.

“Advocates have voiced concern that a coronavirus outbreak among the homeless would be devastating since many are battling addiction and already suffer from compromised immune systems.”

Christopher Livingstone, an outreach coordinator with Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre said it best: “ I’d rather not wait until we’re isolating, I’d like to see them off the streets now.”


Images: GlacierMedia


  1. Perhaps instead of hotels, rushedly reopening additional portions of Riverview would make more sense?

    Placing difficult-to-house or housing resistant people into hotel rooms sounds like a very expensive short term solution, with the potential to leave taxpayers with huge bills for damages. The SROs in the DTES didn’t end up in the disaster state solely by the negligence of their slumlords. The people living in SROs and in much of BC Housing’s stock tend not to be low maintenance tenants.

    Riverview at peak housed over 4,300 people. I’m not sure how much of that was properly mothballed, or just left to rot; but a health emergency such as this might just be a good reason for actually providing people who need treatment with a long term solution.

    Staffing would probably be difficult, but I can’t imagine Hotels would be easy to manage either. They’re not facilities designed around patient care.

  2. To me, during this pandemic, this whole situation in the DTES is a fire waiting for a match.
    I think our bed ventilator (hundreds) and even our hospital bed( a few 1000’s) capacities could easily be overwhelmed from this ‘fire’ alone.
    I’m sure someone is thinking about this, but I don’t understand the delay. Isn’t it a matter of days or a couple of weeks until the virus sweeps through the DTES?

    What to do?

    There have been plenty of complaints about crowded condition in shelters and SROs.
    Isn’t this time to take over the worst SRO’s, hire people to monitor and clean them, move volunteers out to other locations so that the crowding is not so bad?
    Wouldn’t pre-emptive offering accommodation in other sites make sense.

    I know its presumptive of me to suggest specific ‘solutions’. I’m sure they are being thought of.
    My point in writing is to say –
    I support respectful ACTION now!- even when it means costs and creating housing in my neighbourhood.
    What do you think?

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