Gratitude Week renovates advertisement

Donations to Gratitude Week will be used to buy the Pender Hotel - at least that's what Vancouver entertainment talk show host Fiona Forbes said in a public service announcement for the anti-homeleness campaign. But Ms. Forbes's clip was recently replaced with a shot of former broadcaster Pia Shandel saying the money will go towards renovating the Pender Hotel - which was purchased by BC Housing last year. So what happened?

"What happened was, when that video was being taped, I wasn't able to be there for every piece of the creative work," responded Gratitude Week founder and chairman Ron Josephson. "And there was a lot of creative stuff going on."

"And the celebrity in question - I heard what she said - it was never true. It was never intended to be that way. It was just her way of expressing an emotion or view that she'd been told about by the people producing it."

"To be perfectly honest with you, when I saw it for the first time I thought it was a little funny because it had been so misconstrued from the actual facts. Others thought it less funny than me. So we got to fixing it right away," he added. "It was an oversight."

As for fixing the Pender Hotel, a BC Housing spokesperson confirmed the Crown agency has already allocated $3.15 million to cover the total cost of the building's renovation.

So Gratitude Week's donations to the project will let the agency redirect those already allocated dollars to renovate the Gastown Hotel, allowing work on that building to begin ahead of schedule.

In addition, for every dollar raised by Gratitude Week, BC Housing will contribute a matching amount toward the Gastown Hotel.

"Part of the motivation of Gratitude Week is twofold - one is to engage the citizens of Vancouver in the fight against homelessness and make them feel legitimately that they're having an soon as possible," Mr. Josephson explained.

"And the way we've been able to do that is give them a project" - the Pender Hotel - "that's shovel-ready...And people will be able to watch their dollars at work in the next couple weeks, as soon as the construction starts," he said, adding the renovations will be videotaped and posted online.

By comparison, work on the Gastown Hotel will "take a little longer" - getting underway in the New Year and being completed "on a gradual staged basis."

"We don't know if we'll cover all the costs. It's possible we'll cover the Pender and the Gastown. We just don't know. But that's why the money is first going toward the Pender."

Mr. Josephson said Gratitude Week was granted charitable status in the last couple days.

Information about how donations to Gratitude Week will be spent is also available on the campaign's Website.

The following is a complete copy of BC Housing's response to our inquiries concerning Gratitude Week.


* The provincial government allocated $3.15 million to renovate the Pender Hotel, including a full building envelope remediation, new electrical systems, fire and safety system restoration, and an elevator.

* Now that funds raised during Gratitude Week are being directed to the Pender Hotel renovations, some of that $3.15 million will be redirected toward renovations at the Gastown Hotel.

* For each dollar raised for the Pender Hotel during Gratitude Week, an equivalent amount of money will be allocated to the Gastown Hotel so the precise dollar amounts for each project will be determined once the fund raising campaign is completed.

* The Pender Hotel will be renamed Gratitude House.

* Redirecting funds to the Gastown will enable those renovations to begin ahead of schedule.

* BC Housing is managing the renovations at both buildings.

There have never been discussions with Gratitude Week about purchasing any of the provincially owned Single Room Occupancy hotels. The Public Service Announcement produced by Gratitude Week has been changed to acknowledge that the intent of the donation is to renovate the Pender Hotel.


Who is this group exactly? I am sure they are well meaning people (I didn't recognize the majority of them - sorry)
I have a lot of questions about this:
Why is BC housing matching the dollars raised by a private foundation? Not sure why this group just doesn't pick another site/purchase another building so we can house more people - as my understanding is that the former residents of the Gas Town Hotel will move back in and that the Pender Hotel is already fully subscribed. Why is BC Housing, which I assumed was a crown corporation, accepting charitable donations? Does ICBC accept charitable donations? Isn’t BC Housing’s money public money? Are we being taxed twice? How much do you have to raise to get BC housing to name a building after you? And why is this even happening? Seems a bit pointless to make the renaming part of the deal...just weird. If they don’t need the money for the Pender, why does this group get to rename it? What is this Josephson fellow’s connection to BC Housing or to Poverty Issues in Vancouver? What is this group’s connection to Homelessness Action Week -which has been running across the provinces, uniting multiple agencies for many years now? I am really baffled about the government using money raised by a charity - I hope someone can shed a little light on this for us.

Great questions, AM.

The other piece of this story is that, according to the Gratitude Week website, any funding that gets redirected to the Gastown Hotel will be used to renovate commercial space on the first two floors, and it is the lease revenue from this space that BC Housing will use to eventually renovate the residential units.

I think it is quite misleading that viewers of this video are being lead to believe that this project will make a real contribution to ending homelessness.

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