The historic Pennsylvania Hotel officially re-opened yesterday — more than a century after it was built — to provide supportive housing for homeless in the Downtown Eastside.

“I’m very happy,” said Earl Crowe, who spent the past three years living in a tent in Crab Park before he moved into the hotel last month.

Crowe had resisted living in single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels because he said there was no dignity, nor respect for tenants.

The shared bathrooms, he added, were crowded and disgusting.

“Now, I can have a friend over to have a coffee or a beer at my place … Skid row is a place in your mind, not in your city.”

The $14-million project, which has funding from federal, provincial, municipal and community partners, transformed the 77-room SRO hotel (which closed its doors in 2000) into 44 units of supportive housing.

Each suite has its own bathroom and cooking area, and 12 of the suites are wheelchair accessible.

There is also a new neon sign on the five-storey brick building, a replica of the one that adorned it a century ago.

The Portland Hotel Society will manage the building. The province, which provided $4.6 million for renovations, will also provide an annual grant of $341,000 to allow rents of $375 and 24-hour staff support.

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