Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2022/ Ghost of the Station Hotel

Ghost of the Station Hotel

There is a homeless encampment at the corner of Weber and Victoria. This is not unusual except that it is quite visible to normies. Soon I expect the police and bulldozers will come to raze it down and trash all the homeless people's belongings. (Apparently the police are working on a new strategy but the end result will be forced removal, because that's what police are for.)

Here's the thing: that site used to be housing for poor people. It is where the Station Hotel was until it burned down in 2001. At the time it had the reputation of being a run-down fleabag hotel. But it provided housing to poor people on a week to week basis. If it was still standing some of those in the encampment might well be living there.

The housing it provided would not have been great. But the rooms would have been separated, and they would have locks on the doors. It would have been a step up from staying in a church basement. Now those options are pretty much gone. The Region (and my ex-employer) are running a similar operation in one of the WRCI buildings near the University of Waterloo, but that was an emergency COVID measure and it has caused a lot of tension in the neighbourhood. Since the Mayfair was demolished I don't think there are any flophouse hotels left in Kitchener. There are some sketchy motels around King and Fairview, but that is it. Rooming houses are a similar solution, but they are offer less capacity.

What interests me about these run-down hotels is that they are privatized solutions to homelessness. Governments hate them because they are run-down. Governments use words like "dignity" and "standards" to argue why these private solutions should not exist, and then they regulate them out of existence. Then those same governments coerce people into church basements and make them sign "housing plans" that are completely inappropriate. When the poor people fight back by living in encampments, they harass and destroy those encampments as if that will get people into housing. Those are not "dignified" solutions either, but when people ask for such solutions the governments shrug their shoulders and say there is no money.

Note that the Region of Waterloo owns the land this encampment is on. If the Region wanted to it could rebuild the Station Hotel land as a medium/high affordable housing development. But of course this land is slated to be the new Transit Hub, amd there is no space for affordable housing there.

Nobody likes flophouse hotels. They are an eyesore and they come with attendant community problems (just ask UW students how they feel these days about the WRCI shelter). Warehousing people in giant buildings comes with a host of problems. But are these hotels worse than having encampments everywhere? Are they worse than having an encampment on the empty lot?