Restricting guests from supportive housing complexes will lead to more overdoses and endangers the lives of residents, according to an advocacy group for those residents.
The Red Braid Alliance will be holding a press conference in Maple Ridge on Wednesday afternoon outside the Alouette Heights supportive housing building.
“Many more people in our buildings are going to die under the guest ban,” said Tracy Scott, a resident of Alouette Heights and a frequent spokesperson for the residents of the now decamped Anita Place homeless camp.
She said six people have died in the building already, because of the “ban.”
Residents from the three supportive housing buildings in Maple Ridge will speak out against what they are calling a ban, joined by people who are living on the streets. All three of the buildings are operated by Coast Mental Health.
“While British Columbia’s health authorities have issued a range of physical distancing restrictions and recommendations to combat the spread of COVID-19, the Provincial Health Authority has not given landlords the power to override tenants’ rights to have guests in their homes,” said a press release from the Alliance. “The responsibility to determine which two loved ones each person wants in their home circle is delegated to everyone individually. Living in supportive housing rather than a condo or detached home does not change that.”
Coast Mental Health responded that the restriction on guests is done in accordance with the provincial health officer order, asking everyone to limit interactions with family and friends to one to two people.
“We’re now asking tenants to limit the number of guests at their homes,” said spokesperson Susan Hancock. “We would like to make clear that this isn’t a guest ban, but a request to limit the number of guests in our facilities in an effort to keep everyone safe.”
She said with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the Fraser Health region, Coast has put in place safety plans at each of its facilities to keep occupants safe. This includes visitor restrictions at some locations to protect clients who live with compromised immune systems.
“Often these are vulnerable populations with complex health needs that include chronic illness. We also want to ensure our front-lines workers are protected as they provide tenants at these locations with 24 hour/ 7-day-a-week health care supports,” added Hancock.
“Until we see the COVID-19 cases significantly reduced and the provincial order lifted, we’ll continue to encourage tenants to reschedule visits with their family and friends at these locations.”
A joint statement from a group of legal organizations including Pivot Legal Society, CLAS, TRAC, First United Advocates, and TAPS Victoria said supportive housing operators were abusing the rights of tenants with these arbitrary guest bans. Their statement explains:
“[Banning guests is] in direct contravention of section 30 (1) (b) of the Residential Tenancy Act, which stipulates that: a landlord must not unreasonably restrict access to residential property by a person permitted on the residential property by that tenant. This section of the RTA is core to tenants’ right of access and is intended to protect individual tenants and their guests from unreasonable interference by landlords. Both the BC Supreme Court and the BC Court of Appeal have confirmed that building-wide guest bans are not a reasonable restriction.”