North Vancouver senior, 82, ends up in homeless shelter after cancer surgery
Eighty-two-year-old Fran Flann at the Lookout North Shore Shelter on Wednesday.
An 82-year-old North Vancouver woman has been recovering from her mastectomy at a homeless shelter — her only option as her landlord deals with bedbugs at her Lower Lonsdale apartment.
After a battle with pneumonia in January, doctors found a lump on Fran Flann’s breast and diagnosed her with cancer. She got the surgery and was discharged from hospital Feb. 4.
When she realized she had no place to go due to the infestation, Vancouver Coastal Health put her up at the Grouse Inn. But those funds only lasted a week, so she was sent to the Lookout North Shore Shelter, where she’s been living the past 10 days.
“Anybody else my age … wouldn’t have lasted two days,” Flann said about her stay. “But I certainly can’t afford (the hotel).”
Robyn Brown, a longtime friend of Flann’s, approached the North Shore News and her story ran in the paper on Wednesday. By 8:30 a.m. a Good Samaritan offered to check her in at the Grouse Inn until her apartment is ready next week.
Vancouver Coastal Health and the Hollyburn Family Services Society will also cover costs related to the bedbug cleanup and replace her furniture.
“I’m overwhelmed at the generosity,” said Brown. “She really needs to just go and relax and just lay in the bed at the motel.”
While Flann’s story got a much-deserved happy ending, Leya Eguchi of the Hollyburn Family Services Society said it’s only “the tip of the iceberg.”
“This is tied to a greater issue,” she said, adding that a single case worker at the agency is working with as many as 100 low-income seniors who are homeless or close to it.
“There’s constantly seniors at the shelter … We have seniors sleeping in their cars right now, we have seniors that are sleeping outside.
“Much more needs to happen in order to address the problem … the income level, the programs, the housing costs — there’s all kinds of limitations in the system.”
According to Eguchi, even with the guaranteed income supplement, CPP, old-age security, as well as rent subsidies from the province’sShelter Aid For Elderly Renters program (SAFER), many seniors are living off $1,400 a month.
“In the Lower Mainland what does that get you?” she asked, adding that seniors often compensate by foregoing medication or eating every couple of days.
Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie, whose office released a report addressing these issues last month, is calling for increased funding to SAFER, which caps rent at $765 — a problem for Vancouver, where most one bedrooms cost upwards of $1,000 a month.
While the province increased the program’s funding by nine per cent, it’s “still wonderfully inadequate” considering rents increased 34 per cent over the past 10 years, she said.
“You could argue unaffordability is everybody’s issue, but it is different for low-income seniors,” she said. “They’re no longer in the workforce, their circumstances are never going to change … they have no upward potential.
“If we don’t make some changes to SAFER we are going to see these seniors no longer able to afford to pay their rent.”
Mackenzie was disappointed that the issues with SAFER weren’t addressed in the provincial budget released Tuesday, but plans to continue her campaign to “reinforce that this is an issue and … why you need to pay attention.”
[email protected] Wednesday February 17, 2016