A month-long educational safety campaign organized by the Vancouver Marpole Community Response Network (CRN) and the South Vancouver Seniors’ Network in March engaged the community –seniors specifically – in sharing stories of individual experiences with rental housing in the community. (View our previous story on this project.)
The South Vancouver Seniors Network was launched in 2019 by MLA Michael Lee (Vancouver-Langara) and Andrea Krombein, Marpole Oakridge Family Place and CRN Coordinator. The Network is an umbrella for over 20 organizations working to provide seniors’ services and advocacy.
In addition to collecting anonymous anecdotes, the campaign showcased weekly webinars that featured presenters from the BC Human Rights Clinic via the Community Legal Assistance Society, the Tenant Resource Advisory Centre (TRAC), the Residential Tenancy Branch, the Vancouver Police, and Seniors First BC. All presenters focused on senior tenant safety.
“The tenant-landlord or tenant-building manager relationship is a sensitive and complex one,” says Andrea. “The goal of the campaign was to bring senior tenants, landlords, building managers, and property management companies together to help one another understand their respective rights and responsibilities, and to ensure that seniors, landlords, and building managers recognize and understand the signs of elder abuse and neglect in the context of tenancy.
The CRN saw that seniors did not want to talk.
“We only received a handful of statements,” she says. “Despite assuring confidentiality, seniors were afraid of being identified and feared retribution if they spoke out about their experiences.”
The team was also able to confirm that seniors living in rental housing do find themselves in difficult situations that sometimes have some form of abuse. They also learned it was difficult to reach landlords, building managers, and owners. Contact information was hard to establish and invitations to participate went unanswered.
“From the presentations, we learned we have many excellent service and support organizations,” continues Andrea. “However, we did confirm two main suspected gaps in the system: many seniors need someone to walk them through their situation or problem from beginning to end, and the non-profits providing the relevant assistance are often overwhelmed”
This gap was once partially filled by senior volunteers in the community; however, the continued pandemic has resulted in most volunteers continuing to stay home.
“As a CRN, we need to assume that seniors may not be able to see a concern – be it adult abuse, or tenancy, or health-related issues – through to its resolution,” she says. “There is more we can do to coordinate responses, to assist with connecting the different parts of our system to serve the people who need it most.”
“Vancouver aspires to become a ‘restorative city’. There is an acknowledgment that many residents – not just seniors – feel unsafe and isolated, and are experiencing harm,” says Joanna Li, Regional Mentor – Vancouver. “If we are to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the community, seniors’ issues matter.”
Currently, Andrea is combing through hours of recordings, gathering data to develop recommendations on how to address the most critical of senior tenant issues. She plans to table these recommendations with Vancouver Coastal Health and MLA Michael Lee in the fall, hoping for fast and sustainable action to make seniors safe where they need it the most – in their homes. The statements that were submitted by seniors were also shared anonymously.
Andrea explains: “We need to work together to figure out the barriers and take action. Writing reports only takes us so far. It’s time to act, and the coordinated actions of many can make a real, lasting impact.”
What will you do? What are your actions?
For more information about this safety campaign or to get involved with the Vancouver Marpole CRN, contact CRN Coordinator Andrea Krombein at firstname.lastname@example.org or 778-668-3634, or Regional Mentor Joanna Li at email@example.com.
The recordings of the South Vancouver Seniors Network Weekly Live Webinar sessions, which supported this campaign as well as the presentation materials, report, and related information are available on request from Andrea.
Written by: Debbie Chow, Links Communication Solutions. Follow Debbie on LinkedIn @debbiechowabc.
(Header photo: Creative Commons License)