Viewpoint Vancouver has written before about George Pearson Centre (GPC) at 650 West 57th Avenue that houses some of the most vulnerable people in 114 long term beds. All residents use power or wheelchairs, and many require assistance for even basic needs, like sitting up or getting out of bed. This is a 70 year old facility that used to be a tuberculosis hospital. The setup and the management of this facility has a troubling history fraught with challenges.
The residents of George Pearson Centre were severely impacted by Covid restrictions and many rely on family to assist with their most basic needs.Activist Paul Caune has drawn attention to this issue, and shared the stories of people whose quality of life and opportunity to have even the most basic interaction with caregivers, families and friends cut off due to facility precautions over the Covid pandemic.
Activist Paul Caune
Journalist Daphne Bramham has written about issues for residents in George Pearson Centre that were evident even before the Covid epidemic.
There was some good news though, that some of the residents of this facility were going to be able to go to new homes planned for them in Cambie Gardens at 788 West 57th Avenue, an Onni development. (Onni bought the George Pearson Centre site from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and is redeveloping it in several phases).
While 44 residents were originally scheduled to move to their new home in the Spring, this was delayed to June when occupancy permits were approved for the units. Still no move and no information in August.
Here we are almost three months later, and the residents (some who have unfortunately passed away waiting) have still not heard when they can move in. In the interim, staff at George Pearson Centre is being cut back because the move out of the facility was anticipated in June. That also means that Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is paying for retaining specialized staff for the 44 residents that were supposed to be in the Onni development at Cambie Gardens three months ago.
You can imagine how frustrating this is to families and to the residents who are currently in a facility that is not air conditioned, has little privacy and has had continued difficulties with staffing.
But the most frustrating thing is the reason why these vulnerable residents have not been moved to a new environment and a new start. The reason? The developer of Cambie Gardens, Onni which calls itself on its website “The premier real estate developer” is using these most vulnerable patients as pawns with the City of Vancouver.
In a letter dated August 22, 2022, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority wrote “As you know, the original plan was for the first group of 44 GPC residents to move into their new supported housing units at Cambie Gardens in early June. The units are ready for occupancy; however Onni, the developer, will not provide access to these completed units prior to settling outstanding issues with the City of Vancouver regarding the neighbourhood utility-something that is completely outside of Vancouver Coastal Health’s control.“
To make matters worse, now it appears that this legal spat about the Neighbourhood Utility will mean residents cannot move in until 2023. This is between the City and the developer, not the residents. And these residents cannot go out and demonstrate as able bodied people would.
For residents who drew lots to see who would be lucky enough to be the first to leave George Pearson Centre that is untenable.
We are judged by how we treat and respect the most vulnerable in our society-using these residents who could live their final days in a new place with a new start as pawns in a legal disagreement is not acceptable.
This is not equity.
We as a society need to demand better of our developers and of our city. Get those residents into their new home, work out your legal agreement without the most compromised as pawns.
You can listen to this clip from CBC Radio’s Stephen Quinn which outlines the issues, and includes a conversation with the sister of one of the residents that explains how dire the situation is, and why these residents need to be moved now.