WARNING: Some of the images and descriptions in this story are disturbing. Discretion is advised.
A resident of a single-room occupancy hotel, or SRO, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, is sounding the alarm about the appalling conditions inside.
Joshua Coyne lives at the Sakura So Residence at 376 Powell St.
He described the living conditions as “atrocious.”
“The bathrooms are in such a disgusting state, you wouldn’t even want your dog to use them, to be honest. It’s just gross,” he said.
Coyne took photos and videos inside the building and said the Lookout Society, which manages the building, should be doing more to make sure basic human needs are met.
“It’s not really for me, it’s for the people that can’t take care of themselves,” he added.
Coyne said it has been like this since he moved in with his partner three years ago.
“It’s at its peak right now,” he said, “but it’s always been really bad — you don’t even want to use the bathroom. I don’t shower here or get ready here because it’s not sanitary at all.”
This includes feces on the ground and the walls, overflowing toilets, garbage everywhere and infestations of bugs.
An elevator has been broken for two-and-a-half years.
There are 40 rooms inside the building with six shared bathrooms, according to Coyne. Only three could be considered operational at this time.
Coyne said the maintenance man for the building was on vacation for a month and although is back as of Wednesday, he still does not know when things might be fixed.
“None of the other staff did anything to clean. I called them and said, ‘Hey, the bathrooms are in such a state that you can’t use them, there’s no soap in the dispenser,’ and they said, ‘Oh, we know. We have a staff member that’s not here and we don’t have anyone to take care of it, so we know’,” he said.
“And that was after day seven of awful, atrocious bathrooms if you can imagine.”
Global News reached out to the Lookout Society multiple times for comment on Wednesday but did not hear back.
Global News is also seeking comment from the City of Vancouver, which owns the building.
B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon told Global News that B.C. is in a decade-long housing crisis and the province is urging the federal government to get involved.
“BC Housing actually reaches out and works with these SROs to ensure they are doing the basics that need to be done,” he said, and that includes following health standards and guidelines.
“BC Housing is working with SROs and reaching out to them to make sure of their safety and cleanliness,” Kahlon added, but he did not mention if there are any penalties if the buildings are not considered to be at a livable standard.
He said there are 36,000 units under construction or complete in the province at this time.
For Coyne and other residents, however, this is not enough.
“It’s cleaner for me to live on the street than to live in that building,” he said.
“Something needs to be done before someone gets sick or dies from the conditions. It’s unacceptable.”
Coyne said when no one takes care of the building, it gives the residents a sign that no one cares about them and he has seen crime rates and drug use increase as a result. He said he has tried to contact management, head office, anybody, but no one ever responds.
Coyne said the government needs to take over the management of the building or the building needs to be closed down.
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