British Columbia

82-year-old woman spends nearly a week in a homeless shelter

An 82-year-old woman whose apartment is being treated for bedbugs found herself living in a homeless shelter after she was discharged from the hospital following a mastectomy.

Fran Flann, who just underwent a mastectomy, can't go home due to a bedbug infestation

Forced into homeless shelter after surgery

7 years ago
Duration 2:02
82-year-old woman, recently discharged from Vancouver's Lions Gate Hospital after a mastectomy, winds up in homeless shelter when other options dried up

An 82-year-old woman, who was recently discharged from Lions Gate Hospital after a mastectomy, was forced into a North Vancouver homeless shelter when all her other options dried up.

Fran Flann's apartment is undergoing renovations and treatment for a bedbug infestation, a process that's taking much longer than she expected.

"I wasn't in a shape where I could go somewhere where I need a caretaker. I mean, I can go to the bathroom by myself, I can do everything by myself," said Flann. "I didn't need to go to a place where they look after you, so this is what was left."

Flann was upset to find herself moving into the Lookout Northshore Shelter, but after local media picked up her story, help quickly arrived from members of the community, including an anonymous couple who is now paying to move her into a hotel.

Fran Flann, 82, slept in a homeless shelter for nearly a week. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Health issues

Flann's misfortune began when she suffered a bout of pneumonia and collapsed near her apartment. While she was in the hospital, doctors found a lump in her breast that Flann said she's known about for years.

Asked if she wanted radiation therapy, Flann declined. 

"Why go through all that other shit at my age? So I had the mastectomy."

While she was in the hospital, her apartment's management company, FirstService Residential, began fumigating the suite for the bedbugs, as well as clearing it out and doing some renovations.

Discharged from hospital

When she was discharged from hospital on Feb. 4, the suite still wasn't ready.

Vancouver Coastal Health agreed to pay for a motel for a week, a move described in a statement as "above and beyond." After that week, Hollyburn Family Services got her into the Lookout shelter.

"At that point we made sure we were accommodating her as much as possible and really making sure we were going the extra mile when we brought her into the shelter," said North Shore manager for Lookout Emergency Aid Society Bailey Mumford.

Flann not fitting in at shelter

"These are people who have health issues, mental health, drug problems, alcohol. So what am I doing here? I don't smoke. I don't do drugs," said Flann of the homeless shelter. "It's mostly men, so what am I doing here?"

"The shelter is a place that is safe for anybody to come, but because the majority of people who are homeless and on the street are younger men — people with quite heavy drug addictions — somebody in Fran's situation … she hasn't been around this population very much and her level of comfort is just not going to be there," said Mumford.

Flann said the shelter staff has treated her very well, setting her up in a private room and even bringing in a special chair, clock, and lamp for her.

But Flann was happy to be heading back to a hotel Wednesday afternoon.

Fran Flann looks at a photo of herself on the front page of the North Shore News as she prepares to move from a homeless shelter to a motel. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Help from members of the community

"It's a surprise. I don't know what to say," she said as she wiped away tears. "Emotions, yeah, because I've never had to deal with people like that — to help you. You know, when you're a giver not a taker, it's hard, but it's great."

"I'm overwhelmed. What can I say? How do you say thank you to people like that?"

Flann isn't sure when her apartment will finally be ready for her to move back in. 

"It's different every time and then they said 'another week, another week, another week,'" she said. "I thought it was supposed to be another week. I found out this morning, it's two weeks."

And when the renovations are complete, Flann will return to find most of her possessions gone, due to the bedbug infestation.

In a written statement Vancouver Coastal Health said that, along with Hollyburn Family Services, it was paying as much as $750 to help get furniture for the home.

Flann, for her part, hopes her story will raise awareness of the difficulty many seniors find themselves in, with fixed incomes and rapidly rising housing costs.

"They've just got to make housing available for seniors."


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