'Levels of violence we have not seen before': Downtown Eastside hotel manager pleads for help
For locals, the ills that plague Vancouver's Downtown Eastside are no secret, but a stroll around the neighbourhood can be eye-opening for tourists, and bad for the businesses hoping to attract them.
The general manager of the Patricia Hotel appeared before the city's police board Thursday, saying in the 100-plus years the hotel has stood at the corner of Hastings Street and Dunleavy Avenue, the neighbourhood has never been worse than it is now.
"The interactions and altercations that staff have had to deal with on a regular basis have escalated to levels of violence that we have not seen before," said Darrel Neilsen.
He went on to say that the state of the area is driving tourists away from the hotel, and causing those that do venture in to leave scathing reviews online.
"We booked the hotel for 2 nights and upon arrival in the neighborhood I was afraid for myself and my husband," wrote one unsatisfied customer on TripAdvisor.
"The accommodation is located exactly in the slum. I am not exaggerating when I say that there are at least 100 tramps and drug addicts on the sidewalks in front of the door and in the street," says another, translated from German, on Expedia.
"These are all reviews that are front and centre on my site, that affect my business," said Neilsen. "That make it nearly impossible for me to keep my doors open, attract staff and attract guests."
Adam Palmer, the city's chief of police, acknowledges the major issues in the area, but insists policing can only be one part of any possible solutions.
"Challenging neighbourhood with mental health, addiction issues, homelessness," said Palmer. "We recognize that, I think as all Vancouverites do. Policing is one part of it, but there's also huge parts for the city and Vancouver Coastal Health, and all the other partners."
The hotel is just a block from Oppenheimer Park, which is currently overflowing with tents because people have nowhere else to go.
"It's all related to housing in the end so we're doing everything we can to provide housing. That's our number one concern," said Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
Asked if he discourages tourists from exploring the neighbourhood, the mayor said just the opposite.
"There's lot of venues in that area that tourists would love to go to," said Stewart. "I would say, like any big city, be aware. But also, there's wonderful things all over the city, including in those areas, that you shouldn't miss."
As for Neilsen’s plea for more policing, or a change in the way policing is done in the neighbourhood, it doesn't seem like the VPD plans to make any changes.
"I feel for him," said Chief Palmer. "We try to help him out whenever we can, but it's a tough neighbourhood."