On the one hand, Beverley Roberts, 82, has to negotiate 12 stairs to get down to a basement suite in Vernon she shares with three other ladies. And that can be a struggle.
But on the other hand, said Roberts, one of her roommates loves to cook for the suite. So while she does all the cooking, the others contribute to the food bill.
Roberts collects $1,600/month Old Age Pension and pays $725 for her room in the suite, which does include a fridge in her bedroom, and a shared kitchen and bathroom. She had been living in a Vernon retirement residence but said she “couldn’t afford the high rent there anymore and was evicted.”
“I should be in a home where my meals are taken care of, and my cleaning,” said Roberts in a phone interview to discuss her situation and those of others. A situation, she said, that is only going to get worse.
“I collect $1,600 a month Old Age Pension. The cheapest place I could find to satisfy my needs was $1,700 a month.”
The retirement residence, she said, was responsible for finding her a place to live and Roberts ended up at the Schell Motel Express on 32nd Street for three months before moving into her suite.
The Schell Express and the neighbouring Belair Apartments offer temporary housing to low-income and homeless citizens through the Turning Points Collaborative Society and BC Housing. Roberts said funding for that program will expire at the end of this month, putting more people onto Vernon’s streets.
“They’re not drug addicts or alcoholics,” said Roberts. “They’re ordinary people. Some single parents with children who cannot afford housing on their salaries. The children range from pre-school to teenagers.”
All of the children, she said, have excellent behaviour and are very polite.
“Living in a motel, they have to be,” said Roberts.
BC Housing responded to queries from The Morning Star, saying the organization is aware there is a shortage of affordable housing available for people experiencing homelessness in Vernon.
“The Schell Express and Belair motels are not closing at the end of August; however, using the Schell Express and Belair motels in Vernon as accommodations for people experiencing homelessness was always a temporary measure, which first opened in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide spaces for people without adequate shelter,” said BC Housing in a statement.
“Since then, the program has pivoted to continue to provide temporary places to stay for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Vernon.”
BC Housing said it’s working with Turning Points and residents of both motels to find alternative, long-term or otherwise appropriate homes for the individuals to move to.
And no residents of these motels will be put out onto the street with nowhere else to go.
“BC Housing continues to work with Turning Points Collaborative Society (TPCS) on a variety of housing programs, including shelters, supportive and affordable housing in Vernon and other Interior communities. We know that temporary housing like that at the Belair and Schell motels is only one part of the housing ecosystem, which is why we have more than 510 affordable homes open or underway in Vernon.”
Turning Points said that beneficiaries of the motels program have been aware of the temporary nature of the funding.
“This programming has always intended to be a stepping stone toward a long-term housing solution, and program participants are actively seeking those solutions with the assistance of our case management teams,” said TPCS. “Should this this temporary funding come to an end, we will work closely with BC Housing and the tenants to find solutions.”
Some Vernon hotel owners have offered to rent units to the current occupants at a reasonable rate, according to TPCS.
“The housing crisis continues to be a major issue in our community and we are committed to assisting as many people as possible in their search for affordable housing,” TPCS said.
Roberts said the society is so used to the government taking care of everything, “we have forgotten how to take responsibility for this crisis on ourselves.”
“Please do what you can to help,” she said. “Have you a spare room or a basement suite? Or if you’re not wanting strangers in your home, perhaps you can donate to Turning Points so they can continue their program for another year, letting everyone stay in motels.
“Is there a soft-hearted millionaire out there?”