Samaritans rescue seniors with health issues in building without cooling

Several Vancouver seniors in housing for low-income tenants, who were in distress with health issues in the heat, got two nights of respite when complete strangers booked them a hotel room. But many more are struggling.

Monika Warzecha 3 minute read June 29, 2021

Good Samaritans stepped in to help several Vancouver seniors after the sweltering heat aggravated their health problems, paying to book them into a hotel for two days.

But one of the seniors says many more are struggling in her building, which lacks functioning air conditioning.

Some are using fans and tying ice packs to their heads, but there isn’t much relief, said Catherine Stafford, who lives at Linden Tree Place, a four-storey residence in Kitsilano for about 30 low income seniors and people with spinal cord injuries.

“The real issue is the fact that the cooling system in the hallway is blowing hot air and it can’t be turned off,” said Stafford. “I can feel the stress on my heart. It feels heavy and it’s kind of painful and hard to breathe,” she said.

After she posted “a comment on someone else’s comment” on Facebook, two strangers reached out online and paid for Stafford and two other Linden Tree residents, who have asthma, to stay in a hotel room on Sunday and Monday.

One of them “made the reservation to start, and it was all paid for by (people in) the community,” said Stafford. “They just took it over.”

“It’s like 50 C in our hallway and it’s contributing to the heat in our apartments. There’s quite a few disabled people in this building with wheelchairs and a lot of people have health issues like me.”

She’s anticipating that when she returns to Linden on Tuesday, she “will be sleeping in my car because it’s not going to cool down that much to be able to sleep in my apartment.”

“The suggestion by the property manager was to put a wet cloth over the vents in the hallway,” said Stafford. “That didn’t work because it just dried in two seconds.”

She added that few residents have portable air conditioners because they can’t afford them. After many calls to the building manager, she said, a small common room with air conditioning was opened. However, there is only room for a few chairs.

On Monday, residents at two other nearby independent living homes for seniors facing a similar situation were informed that a “cooling station” would be open.

An e-mail from building managers for Red Oak Place at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House said that “the way the building is designed, the air conditioning can only cool common areas.”

That means, it said, the air supply to common areas is 19C, but as people leave windows and doors open to catch a breeze, it had little effect. “It’s like trying to cool down the car. One needs to close windows and turn on a/c.”

One resident, who declined to be named because she was worried about ‘falling out’ with building managers, said residents at the three homes include advocates who are knowledgeable and capable about managing properties and voicing their concerns. Some helped to create many of the innovative housing alternatives that were developed in the 1970s, she said.

Seniors, she said, are “dismissed in general” but for this group to be treated that way, “wow.”


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