Before he moved into the Abbott Mansion, Rick lived in a building on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that he describes as dirty and dangerous. “It was pretty tough there, it was really bad,” the 60-year-old says.

In the past, Rick says he struggled with addiction and got into trouble with the law, but he now lives a quiet life. Two years ago he moved into a clean and peaceful apartment at the Abbott Mansion, a single resident occupancy (SRO) building owned by Central City Foundation and renovated in 1999. These days, Rick spends his time watching TV, reading online, and fixing things for his friends. When he goes out to buy food and pick up his prescriptions he avoids the streets and people who used to get him into trouble.

He and his neighbour, Albert, who both have serious health issues, leave their doors open to keep each other company.

“We keep an eye on each other,” Rick says. “When you get sick, you get a buddy system going. It’s part of surviving.”

Thanks to Central City Foundation donors, the Abbott provides clean, safe and reliable housing for those with low incomes, with rents at or below the shelter allowance provided by social assistance. Management strives to keep the building free of the drug dealing, violence and harassment common in Downtown Eastside hotels, providing a safe haven for its tenants while serving as an example for other buildings in the neighbourhood.

“We try to give everyone a chance to have good, safe, clean housing,” says Tom Irwin, the building’s manager.

Irwin knows all the tenants by name. Sitting at his office desk, he greets them one by one as they enter the building. Irwin strives to build a good rapport with the tenants, listening to their needs and helping them access any services they may need.

Rick has been diagnosed with multiple illnesses including colitis, Crohn’s disease and hepatitis. But since he moved into the Abbott two years ago, he says his health has gradually improved.

“Things are getting a lot better, but it’s taken two years of working at that,” Rick says. He’s greatly reduced his methadone dosage, as well as the amount of prescription drugs he takes, and says that it’s easy to rest in his quiet corner apartment.

“What made me happy here is we have security at the doors,” Rick says. “The hallways and washrooms and everything are very clean here. They take very good care of the building.”

The Abbott Mansion is one of two SROs bought and renovated by Central City Foundation donors to help neighbours on the Downtown Eastside. Visit our website for more information about the Abbott and the Cosmopolitan building.