Hotels cast out renters during Games

The low-income housing games have begun. In the run-up to the Canada Winter Games, it has become clear the less fortunate are going to be the…

The low-income housing games have begun.

In the run-up to the Canada Winter Games, it has become clear the less fortunate are going to be the biggest losers.

There are about 15 low-income Yukoners living at the Riverview Hotel.

There are five month-to-month rooms booked at the Stop In Family Hotel.

And the Stratford Hotel’s 20 long-term rooms are full.

But, when the Games begin in February, most of these renters will be tossed out.

“We will not be renting those rooms monthly after February 15th,” said the Family Hotel’s owner on Thursday.

“During the Canada Winter Games we won’t have anybody renting month-to-month.

“We don’t promise that far in advance.”

“We’re already full for the Winter Games,” said a Riverview Hotel receptionist.

And the 15 rooms that are currently being lived in are among those booked, she said.

The residents will have to leave.

The Stratford Hotel is allowing 10 of its long-term residents to stay.

“The ones that have been here for years will not have to leave,” said a Stratford receptionist.

But the 10 newest residents were told they would have to leave during the Games before they started renting, she said.

“Where are they all going to go?” said Status of Women co-ordinator Charlotte Hrenchuk.

“It’s February. It’s not like they can go to the campground.”

The Salvation Army is the only emergency shelter in town. It has 10 beds.

And last winter, it was operating well beyond capacity most nights.

“These people are in hotels because they can’t find apartments,” said Hrenchuk, who’s had a number of people approach her about the Games problem.

“It’s a big concern amongst the poor,” she said.

“People don’t know where they’re going to go and they’re frightened.”

Social assistance has emergency shelter contracts with some hotels, said Hrenchuk.

“And I’d like to know what they are going to do for their clients.

“Usually, social assistance says it’s up to the clients to find their own accommodation, but there’s no other accommodation out there.”

Social assistance pays clients a lump sum to cover accommodation, fuel and food, said Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living.

“If they want to live in a hotel, it’s their choice,” she said.

During the Games, they won’t have any place to live, said Hrenchuk.

“So what are they going to do? Are they going to wash their hands of these people?”

Social services funds the Salvation Army to provide shelter, said Living.

The Salvation Army can rent a hotel room if it’s out of space or it’s sheltering a woman with a child, she said.

Living didn’t know if the contracts required the hotel to keep rooms available at all times, or if the rooms could be booked during the Games, she said.

“But this has been identified as an issue,” said Living.

“And we are certainly taking a look at it.”

“It’s quite a concern that people are taking advantage of long-term residents and putting them out into the cold,” said Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness chair Ross Findlater.

The group discussed the problem with mayor Bev Buckway last Thursday.

“We are quite concerned,” said Findlater. “But we didn’t come up with any solutions.”

“This is a small territory, and businesses that try to benefit on the backs of other people for a short period like that would probably pay consequences long-term,” said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell.

“And I would hope that government would not reward that by continuing to use their services in the future.”

During the leadership debate in early October, Premier Dennis Fentie made a similar statement.

He could not be reached for comment.

“We’ve met with most of the hotels, including the Chilkoot and the Pioneer, and they’ve assured us they’re not kicking out long-term tenants,” said the Games’ general manager Chris Morrissey.

There had been no discussions with the Riverview Hotel or Family Hotel, he said.

“At the Riverview we have almost every room booked, except for three or four that were for another tour,” he said.

“And we have all the rooms at the Family Hotel booked except for a couple that are staff rooms.”

He didn’t know these hotels would be forcing monthly renters to leave, he said.