Dennis Guay has been missing since a fire destroyed the building in which he lived. Those who know and love him say he’s a kind and hopeful man, known for his storytelling and his guitar playing, who deserves some explaining.
On April 11, flames tore through the Winters Hotel in Vancouver’s Gastown neighborhood, a single-occupancy building housing 71 people. Firefighters rescued several residents from the blaze but were unable to fully search the building. The following day, BC Housing said no one who lived there was missing. The state corporation does not own or operate the building, but provided funds and worked with the property management company to find shelter for displaced residents.
“I FEEL HAPPY TO HAVE BEEN PART OF HIS LIFE”
Workers from Union Gospel Mission, an organization working with residents of the Downtown Eastside, helped Guay leave the UGM emergency shelter and enter the hotel in 2020, according to spokeswoman Nicole Mucci.
“Despite difficult circumstances, he was very resilient and kept an open heart. He maintained a sense of hope and positivity that was refreshing to those of us who had the privilege of knowing him. Dennis was a great storyteller and he was generous in sharing his life experience and wisdom. He was also accomplished professionally, was very intelligent and educated,” read a statement from the laborer who knows Guay best.
“Not only did he love playing the guitar, but he had an incredible ear for music and especially loved hard rock. He was an incredibly kind, warm and patient man. I feel lucky to have been a part of his life. .”
Her family asks for confidentiality, but provided a statement to Mucci echoing similar sentiments.
“Den is a deeply loved member of our family. Our hearts never stop to think of his gentle nature and kind soul who saw only the good in others,” it read.
RESIDENT MISSING BY A COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION
The organization’s social workers stayed in touch with Guay over the years, contacting him weekly and working with him when he needed help getting hearing aids or setting up appointments.
“After the fire, one of our case managers tried to contact him, call him, text him and email him. Typically, if we didn’t contact him this day, he answered us within a few days.
“And when that didn’t happen, our case management team started to get a little nervous, a little worried.”
On April 26, there was still no word from Guay, and UGM staff reported him missing to the Vancouver Police Department.
“The investigation is active and ongoing,” the Const spokesperson said. Tania Visintin in an email to CTV News on Friday.
“IT’S REALLY SCARY TO THINK HOW EASILY SOMEONE COULD FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS”
Demolition of the fire-ravaged building was halted on April 23 when crews discovered a body. A few hours later, the remains of a second person were found. None of the deceased have been officially identified. However, the tragic discovery raised questions about the housing provider’s earlier statements that everyone who lived there was accounted for.
These questions persist for Mucci, UGM social workers and Guay’s family.
“We don’t have any real answers at this time about what happened to Dennis,” Mucci said.
“We noticed that Dennis was missing and not being taken care of because our case managers had a very personal relationship with him. They loved him, cared for him and stayed in touch with him. But there has individuals, maybe living in SROs, who don’t. I don’t have those same kinds of ties or deep ties to different organizations. And it’s really scary to think how much someone could easily slip through the cracks.
Mary-Ann Garlow, another resident of the Winters Hotel, was reported missing eleven days after the fire. Her family said she was one of two people who died inside the building. Her family also raised questions about how and why Garlow was not properly considered.
The Winters Hotel is operated by Atira Property Management Inc. After the discovery of two bodies last month, CEO Janice Abbott told CTV News that staff at the organization were devastated by the news, although it wasn’t was not entirely unexpected as Garlow had been reported missing.
“We don’t know who the second body is,” she said at the time.
CTV News contacted Atira Property Management Inc. to ask why Guay was not reported missing sooner. This story will be updated if a response is received.
In a statement Saturday, a spokesperson for BC Housing said it worked with police, firefighters and Atira immediately after the fire to confirm residents’ safety.
Work is underway to “better understand how the two residents were inaccurately counted when evacuating the buildings, and whether there are any necessary adjustments to policy and procedures for buildings under BC management. Housing or state-owned,” the statement said.
“WE NEVER WANT TO SEE THIS HAPPEN AGAIN”
Mucci points out that she is not raising questions to assign blame and that an internal investigation is underway. But she says Guay’s case raises important questions about how to plan for future emergencies, especially those that affect vulnerable or marginalized people.
“I pass through this neighborhood every day, and people are so often treated like they’re forgettable, they’re constantly stigmatized, they’re scrutinized. They’ve often told me they feel like they’re forgotten. And nobody deserves that. And Dennis doesn’t deserve that and his family doesn’t deserve that,” she said.
“No one’s family deserves to go weeks and weeks without knowing what happened to their loved one. It’s been weeks since this family has been shut down and we never want that to happen again.”
Guay was in contact with his family and linked to a community organization, and his absence was noticed and eventually reported. But Mucci says that’s not the case for everyone.
“The sad reality is that there are so many people in our neighborhood who might not have those connections and it might take a little longer for them to be noticed if they go missing. People aren’t disposable. People matter, each person matters,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter if you live in an ORS, or don’t have a home or struggle with addiction or have mental health barriers – people as individuals matter. Each of us deserves to be cared for, loved and cared for.”
The fire investigation is ongoing. The fire department said preliminary findings suggest it was caused by unattended candles. The building’s sprinkler system was then deactivated, having been activated by a fire three days earlier.
orignal news from, CTV News Vancouver