Perched on the edge of the river valley, surrounded by historic century-old and mid-century buildings, a tired mid-century era motel turned backpacker’s hostel and now shelter for those on the edge of homelessness, is about to undergo another transformation.
Known as Dwayne’s House, the unconventional shelter, founded by Dave Martyshuk in 2013 and run as a for-profit entity, has been controversial. It has drawn criticism not for its concept but for the reality of its tenure in the old motel. It receives people discharged from hospitals or released from prison on referral, and provides room and board. It claims to serve three meals a day and has access to some classic 12-step style addictions-support services. While these folks may otherwise have been on the street, neighbouring residents and businesses have been concerned about the quality of housing and care and a lack of actual supportive services for the tenants.
There have been a series of fires, disorder, deaths and the unsolved disappearance of tenant Amber Wilson two years ago. Wilson was 31 when she vanished. She needed medications to deal with seizures and has not filled her prescriptions. And there was a suspicious death in late October of a 54- year-old resident. Homicide detectives were investigating.
Started by Martyshuk, Dwayne’s Home had been operated by Brad Kamal and has since been taken over by Homeward Trust, a not-for-profit outfit that targets homelessness. CEO Susan McGee said her main aim is to ensure residents are taken care of. She said Homeward Trust will work with existing staff to transition residents out of the facility. Kamal says Homeward Trust has been amazing to work with as they’re prioritizing the tenants above all else.
After news of the possible sale broke in the summer, downtown Councillor Scott McKeen reiterated concerns about the conditions for residents but also worried that the sudden transition for the 150 residents would turn into a housing crisis. It’s not clear what will become of the facility once the building is sold.
And although neighbours say the tenants need a place to live, many will not be sorry to see an end to the mayhem that has surrounded the facility.