Couple fired from Wentworth hostel face homelessness

Previous manager conducts inspection, returns to old job

Published on February 12, 2010

WENTWORTH - A couple who spends their days providing overnight accommodations to others is about to be out in the cold themselves after losing their job as managers of a local hostel.
Kia and Jonathan Pederson took a chance and gave up their life in Saskatoon to adopt the community of Wentworth and the province of Nova Scotia as their home in June, after accepting jobs at Hostel International's Wentworth site for $400 a month. The job offer came after the previous manager resigned for the fourth time in 20 years.
It wasn't long after arriving at their new home, which is adjoined to the hostel, the Pedersons began to sense trouble.
"We got a 10-minute walk through the place with no training," Kia says. "That's it."
Not long after their employment began, the Pedersons allege Hostels International Maritimes board president and Wentworth resident Diane Powell began asking them to include former manager Gloria Demers in the day-to-day operations, but the Pedersons turned down the request, feeling they could handle the job.
"We didn't need that but it was ongoing," Kia says. "From then on everything went downhill."
Powell began dropping by the site more often, finding inadequacies the Pedersons needed to bring improve upon. The Pedersons say Powell was being petty but during her morning visits, Powell says she would personally remove dog feces belonging to the Pederson's two pet dogs from the property and felt the hostel was in need of more care.
"When you walk into a kitchen, do you want it to be splattered with food?" Powell said. "These concerns had been time after time…there is every good reason for the board to let these people go."
Powell gave the Pedersons notice the hostel was going to be inspected for quality control but Kia and Jonathan felt the inspector would find everything was up to code.
It wasn't until later they felt they should have taken issue with the previous manager, Gloria Demers, conducting the inspection and a subsequent review. After receiving a failing grade and being fired from their jobs, the Saskatoon transplants were told to vacate the only home they've known in Nova Scotia so Demers could move back in and resume her role as manager.
"We were told we were getting an inspection, fine, but she had a stake in the outcome," Kia says.
Demers, however, says she was only doing as she was told and the job offer did not come up until after the board decided to fire the Pedersons.
Demers has worked for the Wentworth Hostel off and on for the past 20 years and has known the Hostel International Maritime board president, Powell, for just as long. By her estimate, she's been offered to return to her old job at least four times in the past 20 years.
"They're always asking me to come back," Demers said. "I like the place. It's like a second home."
Without a home, the Pedersons have until Monday to find accommodations or will be forced to live out of their car.
Losing their job meant losing access to the hostel manager's living quarters and while they say they've never received anything in writing regarding their termination or eviction, they are working desperately to find somewhere to go and a job to bring in money in a province new to them.
"It's the middle of winter, the middle of the month in an economy that's cruel and unforgiving," Kia said. "If we don't find something we're going to have to fend for ourselves out of our car. That's a black mark on this province"
Hostels International Maritimes are the owners of the Wentworth hostel. While Hostels International Canada imposes and reviews the standards for the Canadian hostels, ownership is broken up into regions and the hiring and firing of staff is conducted on this regional level.
Hostels International Canada's administrative co-ordinator, Sylvianne L'Allier, reported the national office has not received any complaints about the quality of the Wentworth hostel.

cgooding@springhillrecord.com