January 29, 2010

Red tents for the homeless in Vancouver – while the world is watching

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With 500 people in metro Vancouver, B.C., hunkering down without a roof overhead nightly, an advocacy group wants to distribute red tents to the city’s homeless to make shelter on the sidewalks — at the height of the Olympic games festivities.

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The Tyee reports:

Picture homeless people camped on downtown sidewalks. Big yawns inside bright red tents as the sun rises on another Olympics day. Early next month, Pivot Legal Society hopes to ask city council’s permission to start handing out 500 collapsible shelters to Vancouver’s most needy. Pivot’s rights activists want to confront a city enthralled by Olympic jubilation with the reality of local poverty. And test the limits of constitutional law.

British Columbia Supreme Court rulings have upheld the right of the homeless to camp in public spaces when there is no other shelter. So Pivot is offering donors the right to “sponsor” a tent for $100 and shelter a homeless person. With world attention about to be focused on Vancouver during the Olympic games, the timing of the Red Tent campaign is no accident.

“We want the media to experience the most liveable city in the world and also see the contradiction — that this is a city that has a chronic problem with poverty and homelessness,” Pivot Executive Director John Richardson said. “We want them to ask, ‘What is the Canadian government doing about this?'”

— Rita Hibbard

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