Housing Minister Rich Coleman mused aloud last January about coming up with a law that would give authorities the power to force homeless people into shelters during cold/wet-weather snaps, if they persist in sleeping outside in spite of efforts to get them in. Now it appears his ministry is going ahead with that plan, according to e-mails that I got sent to me from various ministry staff.
The minister says he wants to at least try to do this to prevent deaths, even if groups decide to challenge it on Charter of Rights grounds. (He did clarify to me, by the way, that although police will be given the power to take people by force if necessary, though not too much force, to shelters, there will be no requirement put on shelter staff or police to keep them there.)
When I asked the minister how many people he thought this might end up being used on, he didn’t give me a number but said that it’s just “one more tool in the toolbox” that people who work in various agencies have asked him for. As has been reported many times in the past, the last homeless count found almost 1,600 people sleeping outside out of a total homeless count of 2,600. Vancouver is also unique among North American cities in having a high percentage of people who are defined as chronically homeless and who have been out on the streets or in shelters for more than a year.
My Globe story on this is here.
The memos and e-mails I got are attached below. For obvious reasons, identifying markers have been taken off.
P.S. I heard a headline on the radio as I was driving 15 minutes ago that said the province wants to make homelessness “illegal.” Nothing I’ve seen so far suggests that anyone will be ticketed or fined or charged for being homeless. The legislation is all about giving authorities the power to force people to sleep indoors during bad weather.