VANCOUVER -- Elinor Warkentin has lived in this sunny stretch of Vancouver’s West End for the last 15 years.

Her particular block is immaculately kept, with birds visiting feeders, lavender tulips blooming in pots, and even in the COVID-19 pandemic, neighbours greeting neighbours, albeit from a distance.

“We’ve got something special here,” Warkentin said.

But in the last couple weeks, she’s noticed some changes at a small hotel directly across the street: a red security fence around the back of the property that’s swallowed up half the pocket park on her block, including a shuffleboard court and a bench.

“I don’t think it’s black and white,” Warkentin said. “I’d like to know what’s going on. I wish they would tell us.”

Warkentin’s concerns have also spilled over among neighbours on the streets, in their hallways, and online.

On a neighbourhood Facebook group, one West End resident wrote last week that she believed the hotel was being turned into temporary housing for the homeless, but even she wasn’t sure.

“How can we as a neighbourhood support what’s going on, and how will it impact us?” Warkentin asked.

When CTV News reached out to the hotel, which caters to budget conscious travelers, the person who answered the phone directed all questions to Atira, a not-for-profit society that houses some 1,500 women and children throughout the province.

“With sincere apologies, it looks like I am deferring to [BC Housing]” Atira Women’s Resource Society CEO Janice Abbott replied by email.

BC Housing Spokesperson Matthew Borghese wouldn’t directly confirm how the Crown corporation would be using the 60-room hotel, calling the circumstances of the pandemic “unprecedented.”

But BC Housing’s Community Self-Isolation Sites webpage explained that some hotels will be used for people who have COVID-19 and need a place to self-isolate, while other spaces will be used for patients after they are discharged from hospital.

Borghese also explained that returning travelers to Canada without a quarantine plan could also end up in one of the 23 sites and 939 spaces across the province.

He also asked CTV News not to name the West End property in question to protect the privacy of guests staying there during the crisis, and sought to reassure its neighbours.

“What we’re doing to help support these people who need to isolate and who need these spaces will not put people at an additional risk,” Borghese said.

BC Housing also followed up with a written statement, broadly explaining how the hotels turned self-isolation sites would operate:

  • Access to hotel spaces is by referral only from local health authorities. Health authorities will identify people who require self-isolation and BC Housing will work with the health authorities and the operators to make these spaces available to them.
  • Non-profit societies who have significant experience working with vulnerable populations oversee the day-to-day management of the hotels and motels.
  • Support staff are available onsite.
  • Every operator follows BC Centre for Disease Control and health authority direction in terms of self-isolation and visitor policies at their buildings.
  • Every individual must follow isolation protocols and service providers work to ensure all individuals who require self-isolation are doing so. Staff monitor who goes in and out of these locations.
  • Staff are provided with personal protective equipment and follow health guidelines around regular handwashing and social distancing.
  • Staff provide daily meals, cleaning services and medical care for those who require support while in isolation.

Still, Elinor Warkentin wonders why BC Housing couldn’t have been more pro-active in reaching out to neighbours.

And while she admits she has some concerns about potential drug use in and around the hotel or encountering those with mental illness who may need additional support, what Warkentin really wants, she says, is to also do her part.

“Do they need cheering up, do they need food, do they need…books…How can we help?” Warkentin said. “I’m someone who believes information is power,” she added.

Anyone with concerns about the self-isolation program can contact BC Housing.