Adam is the Tenant Organizer at the Washington Hotel.
My name is Adam O Jama and I am a Tenant Rep for the DTES SRO Collaborative. Today I’m helping to get the posters up for the SRO School workshop tomorrow.
I live at the Washington Hotel next to the Regent and Balmoral Hotel on Hastings Street. Even-though I don’t live in the Balmoral and Regent, they are my neighbours and I help the Collaborative with door knocking and advocacy there.
One of my most memorable experiences with the Collaborative was getting to know a woman at the Regent. She is so scared and afraid, but she is afraid to complain. The guy at the front desk she was telling me that the landlord would ask her for dates every time she walked by the door. The staff even come into to her room and ask her to “favours” and she kept telling him no. I contacted a safe house in Richmond where my cousin works and helped her move there. The staff at the Regent, they are predators.
I am also helping Wendy at the Laurel Hotel. We had to stand up to the landlord who wanted us to leave, but we were there as guests of the tenants. We helped tenants call the city inspectors and the heat and hot water got turned on, without a lot of problems. The electrical wires are exposed and there are buckets everywhere and the whole building is leaking. The tenants are afraid to rock the boat there but it won’t take us long to find a tenant leader there.
I helped with the Surveying and flyering the SROs before our convention in October. I found a lot of needy people living in substandard conditions, no clean rooms, no laundry, no heat and some no doors and locks, some live on blankets on the floor with no beds. My worst hotel was the Main Rooms, total negligence from the landlord. I’ve never seen conditions like that. The Regent doesn’t have locks. People are getting abused and intimidated including women. Bedbugs, garbage everywhere, spider webs, rats it looks like a horror movie scene.
I really like watching the work of the other Tenant Reps. I first got inspired to join the Collaborative when I saw Mohammad winning his case and getting his money at the Clifton Hotel. He is a role model and has a great personality and cares about community, he’s honest and helpful and caring and really likes to take his time and help and connect people with services. I see him walking in the DTES and one time I saw him in the flee market telling people if you have problems with your landlord come to our Saturday Collaborative meeting, I witnessed this on my own. When people have bad landlords, he gives them a cigarette from his own pack to calm down and then gets them to come to the collaborative.
Watching Jack at the Regent, he is a hero. He stood up by himself against a very powerful landlord who owns a lot of buildings and he wouldn’t back down. People intimidated him and he went against the odds. He is the hero for the SRO Collab. He is the role model.
My favourite thing about the Collaborative is giving power to people who have no power, those who live in the decrepit SROs. They learn about responsibilities of tenants and landlords and how to go the RTB. I feel good because I know I am doing something right. It fulfills your life and you feel good because you have changed their life. Not 100% but at least they have heat and hot water and electricity and no dangerous wires. Once you empower a resident, they can empower other people. It’s like a cascading ripple effect.