VICTORIA -- The manager of a landmark Victoria motel that's housing the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic says the business has suffered thefts, staff abuse and unhygienic conditions.

Rev. Canon Ian Powell, managing director of Paul’s Motor Inn and Restaurant, says that things have largely stabilized at the motel after “four weeks of some considerable strife.”

Powell told CFAX 1070 Tuesday that Paul’s offered up some of its rooms because the motel allowed for greater self-isolation compared to other hotels, and because his faith partly guided him to do so.

He says that when arrangements for shelter were made, there was an understanding that the new tenants would be respectful of the property.

“Regrettably, many of the individuals – not all, I must be very clear here, not all – but many of the individuals that were placed couldn’t seem to find that respect level,” said Powell.

“And so we were dealing with drug dealing, we were dealing with needles where one wouldn’t expect, we were dealing with stolen things – and I don’t just mean soap, I mean TVs, air conditioners,” he said.

Powell says that some staff members refused to work while people were being sheltered at the motel, due to safety concerns.

“Regrettably, most of all I think, was abuse to the staff, and threats,” he said.

“At one point, one of our suppliers… who we need to operate said that they wouldn’t really be able to continue until we were back to normality because they couldn’t put their staff through that.”

The reverend says that when Paul’s Motor Inn first agreed to house homeless people, very few supports were given.

Powell says that he had hoped a greater police presence would be available to the inn. However, the increased presence did not appear until recently, after the inn was forced to evict some of the tenants.

Meanwhile, Powell says that extra health workers or mental health support workers were not stationed at the motor inn, putting immense pressure on his staff.

“The teams that we have in our hotels aren’t trained… to deal with that sort of thing so, therefore, if they’re not dealing with it, who is going to deal with it?” he says.

With the City of Victoria calling on the province to requisition hotels and motels to use as sheltering for homeless people, Powell says that more trained support staff would be needed for the plan to be successful.

“At the moment we are dealing with 35 rooms, which are manageable,” he said.

“But what happens when you multiply it by many [motels], many rooms? It makes for a very difficult situation.”