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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Where Can Homeless Sleep, if not Outside?

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - The city of Vancouver's laws against sleeping outside are unconstitutional, a homeless man claims in court.

Clarence Taylor sued the city in British Columbia Supreme Court.

Taylor say he was twice ticketed for erecting a "structure" on city property: the "structure" was a shopping cart full of his possessions.

Taylor's counsel, the Pivot Legal Society, says in the complaint that Vancouver had more than 1,600 homeless people in 2011 and more than 2,600 in the city and its surrounding regions. Of those, 731 were found sleeping outside in the region, 145 of whom were in the city.

"A large proportion of the unsheltered in Vancouver are youth and/or Aboriginal people. There remains inadequate shelter space in Vancouver, and there are significant gaps in services for youth, Aboriginal people, women struggling with addictions, women with children, and older persons with addiction and mental health problems," the complaint states. "Many of the homeless have special needs related to mental illness, substance misuse, HIV/AIDS, multiple diagnosis, fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effect, attention deficit disorder, brain injuries and involvement with the criminal justice system."

Homeless people are particularly vulnerable to violence, and face significant barriers to receiving services and finding employment, with no address and no phone number.

Thomas "had no meaningful option other than to sleep outside" and the city laws prohibiting sleeping and erecting shelters causes him to "face an increased risk of death, injury, mental and physical anguish, and other negative health effects," according to the complaint.

Thomas claims the laws are unconstitutional because they constitute an unjustifiable "deprivation of their liberty and security of the person."

He is represented by Scott Bernstein with the Pivot Legal Society.

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