British Columbia·In Depth

Former caregiver 'shocked' teen left alone in hotel for 10 days prior to his death

Alex Gervais was more like a son than a client to Alen Hoolaeff, who was the boy's primary caregiver from age 11 to 17, which, he says, is why he is furious the person hired to stay in the adjoining hotel room and care for Gervais was nowhere to be found in the 10 days leading up to Gervais' death.

Alex Gervais' mental heath deteriorated rapidly after 49 days alone in hotel

Alex Gervais' former caregiver of seven years, Allen Hoolaeff, was devastated to read that the teen was left completely alone during the 10 days before his death. (CBC)

Alex Gervais was more like a son than a client to Alen Hoolaeff, who was the boy's primary caregiver from age 11 to 17, which, he says, is why he is furious the person hired to stay in the adjoining hotel room and care for Gervais was nowhere to be found in the 10 days leading up to Gervais' death.

"That was shocking," said Hoolahef, considering 18 year old Gervais hated being alone and hated hotels.

"He did not want to be placed in a hotel again and it's not a surprise that his mental health deteriorated," said Hoolaeff.

Metis teen Alex Gervais died after he jumped from the open window of a hotel in Abbotsford while in xyolhemeylh's care. (Dylan Pelley/Facebook)

 A former respite worker was contracted to look after Gervais, for more than $8,000 even though his former work experience was as a truck driver and a bouncer, says a new report by B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth.

It details a miserable childhood of a boy born to mentally ill parents, who went on to suffer physical  and sexual abuse and neglect in ministry care, marred by mistake after mistake by B.C. social workers who repeatedly failed to provide stability or mental health treatment.

"He had 24/7 support with us and he went from having lots of support to no support, in a hotel room where he didn't want to be," said Hoolaeff, who moved on to a teaching job five months before Gervais died.

Rapid decline into depression and addiction

"He was the most stable l have ever seen him. He had a girlfriend. He was enjoying his life," said Hoolaeff, who is still grieving what he calls a "100 percent preventable death."

He questions why so many pages of the representative for Children and Youth report on Gervais' death are devoted to allegations about the group home contractor he used to work for, when Gervais' death happened six weeks after he left their care.

"We kept him alive for seven years, yet after just five months in the ministry's care he commits suicide," said Hoolaeff, who points out Gervais' mental health and addiction worsened after the teen was moved to his 17th placement, a 4th floor room of a Super 8 motel in Abbotsford.

Former caregiver furious teen abandoned at hotel

6 years ago
Duration 5:18
Former caregiver furious teen abandoned at hotel

The report contains allegations of drug use, sexual assault and caregivers with criminal records, but Gervais himself  told social workers he felt safe and there were no problems in his group home, two months before it was closed.
Gervais lived in one of 23 homes that were closed when MCFD cancelled a private contract after an investigation found problems at other homes.

"Why did they close all the homes ... putting all these kids through another change in their lives?" asks Hoolaeff.

Missed opportunity to have a family

He says he repeatedly tried to connect Gervais with his mother's family in Quebec.

"There should have been connection with his aunt ... he talked about that for years, but everytime he wanted to get her contact information the ministry couldn't find it." 

Alex Gervais, seen here in Quebec in 2008 with his Aunt, Line Decarrie, who tried twice to get custody of him. (Line Decarie)

Line Decarrie says she first attempted to adopt her nephew when he was four, after his biological father was charged with assault for kicking him down a flight of stairs at an arena in Ontario.

She says she tried again when he was 10 after he visited the family in Quebec but, she says, she was blocked by B.C. officials who "refused to give custody to (her) because his father was still around, still alive." 

Gervais final texts

Gervais reached out to Hoolaeff eight days before he died, complaining his social worker wouldn't listen to him and his caregiver had abandoned him.

Texts sent eight days before Alex Gervais died were published in the report into his death by B.C.'s representative for children and youth.

"He doesn't feed me. He's never around ..." texted Gervais.
Hoolaeff says he offered to intervene, but Gervais said no and instead arranged to meet his social worker at 1 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2015. 
But at 9 a.m. that morning, in a deep depression and high on cocaine, he broke his fourth-floor window and jumped to his death.

Hoolaeff believed Gervais wanted to make a point and finally be heard.

"He was giving the government, the Ministry of Children and Families and Christy Clark, the middle finger." 


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To hear an interview with Alen Hoolaeff, click the audio labelled: Former caregiver 'shocked' teen left alone in hotel for 10 days prior to his death

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