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Editorial: Hotels may turn away those escaping domestic violence

It seems unconscionable to deny someone in such a situation a safe haven
Those escaping domestic violence will often need a place to stay. A hotel in their community may or may not take them. (Citizen file)

Can you book yourself into a hotel in your local community if you have the money to do so?

Many would assume the answer would be unquestionably yes, but that may not be the case.

A recent story from further up the Island described a scenario where a woman from the nearby hamlet of Cumberland booked a room at a hotel in Courtenay, to give herself a nice night away. When she went to check in she was turned away because she was considered a local.

The hotel, along with others in the community, indeed have a no locals policy. The reason? Apparently hotels have had one local resident too many book a room in order to host an unruly party. Seems fair on the part of the hotel not to want a rowdy bash with people sneaking in the back door to disturb the entire hotel.

But the other reason cited for the policy left us taken aback. Apparently the hotel doesn’t want someone in a fight with their spouse to book a room, because it might bring the argument into the hotel. That might be one of the most callous things we’ve heard lately.

According to the BC Hotel Association it’s not unusual for hotels to have a policy like this that forbids local guests — so this is going on in communities across our province.

So across our province, those fleeing domestic violence may be turned away from a safe place to sleep for the night. Many people in such a situation have limited financial means and transportation. They may not be able to get far enough out of town not to be considered a local by the hotel they try to book. They may only have the option of walking or taking a bus to the nearest hotel.

And it could be a matter of life and death. Transition houses and shelters for women are strapped everywhere, with few beds to offer. For men there may be even less assistance.

It seems unconscionable to deny someone in such a situation a safe haven — particularly since they aren’t asking for a handout, just the same service as they’d receive if they were from 500 km away.

Surely there are better ways for hotels to make sure that people aren’t partying on the premises than to impose a blanket ban on people whose addresses fall within a certain radius. It seems a bit like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.

As for specifically not wanting domestic violence survivors, that’s jawdroppingly cruel. There are few enough places for people to go without barring them from public accommodations in their own communities.