This week, we received notice that on Wednesday, October 25th at 11am, Portland Hotel Society (PHS) management plans to close our resident-run, community room at 844 Johnson Street. This common room is essential for building tenant power, decreasing isolation, and promoting health among residents. It is home to our weekly Residents’ Council meetings where we discuss and address issues in the building and advocate for the health and housing needs of our friends and family, including those who are still living outdoors.
At tent city, we had many opportunities to build community in shared living spaces which was good for our emotional, mental, and physical health. Since moving indoors to PHS-run, 844 Johnson Street, our connections with friends and family has been limited by restrictive and punitive guest policies that have created isolation and increased our risk of illness and death. There have been 10 deaths at 844 Johnson Street compared to 1 at tent city. Common spaces where we can watch over each other, help each other out, talk through our issues, and vision for the future, are essential to our survival.
While management cites violations of “BC fire code” and “trespassing” as the problem, we have not been informed about these issues and how they can be rectified. There is no fire order and every time fire officials have come in we have received a passing grade. We are not “trespassing” in our own common room. We run a 24/7 resident-run outreach program (day and night shift) for people who need support including peer counseling and overdose prevention training. As our units are so small (approx 8 x 10 feet), this common space is necessary for socializing and support. We need a place to ‘be’ without being monitored, where we can speak and move freely. If we lose this space, we lose so much.
Please help defend our community room by calling management at Portland Hotel Society (844 Johnson Street) asking them to clearly identify the issues to us so we can address them and keep this essential space. If fire code violations are the issue, we will bring the room up to fire code if they provide us with a list of what they need us to do. Please direct your concerns to Jesús, Avery and Kim (250) 812-1764 or (250) 834-1732 (you can also email Avery at firstname.lastname@example.org) or tweet to their ED, Jennifer Breakspear at @PHScss or @jjbreakspear