After decades of opening their doors to Melbourne’s most downtrodden, the owners of St Kilda’s Gatwick Hotel have been forced to put the low-cost boarding house up for sale, The Age reports.
But a small group of residents remain unwilling – so far – to accept a place to stay as part of a government-sponsored relocation program.
Those that remain in the hotel are largely those with significant mental health or dependency issues. None of those approached wanted to talk about their circumstances.
When the eviction of residents was confirmed last month, around 70 people were living at The Gatwick.
Traders in St Kilda’s downtrodden Fitzroy Street say they are seeing fewer problems with violence and drugs as Gatwick residents go elsewhere.
Sisters Rose Banks and Yvette Kelly have run The Gatwick for 46 years, taking over ownership from their mother in 1999.
Taking The Age through The Gatwick last week, Ms Banks said they were looking after the last few tenants as best they could as closure loomed.
She said selling the building for The Block was not yet final: “Nothing is a done deal.”
Ms Kelly said she and her sister were dismayed at their portrayal in the media as heartless slum lords. “People say such horrible things, but we’ve bowed to the pressure to shut the doors.”
She said the pressure to shut had come from “shop traders, the housing minister, the police, and the wealthy people [of St Kilda]”.
Housing Minister Martin Foley said the government had funded St Kilda Community Housing as the lead organisation to ensure all tenants were supported as they left The Gatwick.
Gatwick Private Hotel / Facebook