Olympic homeless roundup? Not likely

The proposal by Housing Minister Rich Coleman to force homeless people into shelters in extreme weather may be well-intentioned but is unworkable, as Councillor Kerry Jang has been pointing out in his responses.

It may also be unconstitutional, as David Eby of the BC Civil Liberties Association,  is insisting.

There are many legitimate reasons someone may not wish to go into a shelter, including fear for personal safety. Many homeless people, both men and women, are justly worried about both the health and security aspects of shelters, and prefer to remain outside if that is the only alternative .

The best answer, of course,  is more housing. The shelters now open in Vancouver, thanks to the efforts of Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vision council, are a stopgap that fall far short of the real need. And they are full.

This morning’s e-mail update from First United Church, forwarded to all councillors each business day by Amanda Trimble, the church’s administrative co-ordinator, shows that 204 people crowded into the sanctuary Saturday night and 193 last night.

So is Coleman laying the groundwork for an Olympic sweep?

The reality is probably simpler: the initiative is the sincere but misdirected effort of a man who has been handed the difficult task of reversing his government’s years of neglect of the housing issue.

That’s why today’s announcement that the government is moving forward with the city to redevelop Little Mountain is more to the point.

As for the Olympic sweep, I’m extremely doubtful. The VPD has enough on its plate without checking doorways and under bushes for homeless people — although its members made every effort to help the woman whose death sparked Coleman’s initiative.

Even if Coleman’s bill becomes law, the VPD would have to have strange priorities indeed to focus on forcing the homeless into shelters — especially shelters that are already full.