Instead of finding ways to force homeless people into shelters or out of the city during the Games, we should be finding ways to include them in the celebrations, says a local homeless advocate.

“Ideally we need a place where (homeless) people can go inside and watch the Olympics on large-screen TVs,” said Judy Graves, co-ordinator of the Tenant Assistance Program for the City of Vancouver.

She said finding ways to let the city’s more marginalized population participate in the Olympics would be “very well received.”

“We all want to watch, and people on the street are no different,” she said.

The question of what’s going to happen to the homeless during the Olympics has been up for debate since Vancouver won the bid in 2003.

Recently, the province announced it’s drafting legislation that would let police force people into shelters during times of inclement weather.

But Laura Track, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, said many homeless people choose the streets over shelters because they often can’t bring their pets, partners and belongings.

If the three low-barrier HEAT shelters that were opened last winter are re-opened as planned, there should be fewer people sleeping on the streets during the Games than there were in the summer.

City Coun. Kerry Jang said ideally there wouldn’t be a need for shelters, and the 161 new rooms opening at Dunsmuir House in November will also help reduce the number of people sleeping outside.

Word on the street

Wendy Pedersen, spokesperson for the Carnegie Community Action Project

Hope: “That Minister Coleman … cashes in the $250 million housing endowment fund and announces he’s going to build 2,000 homes in the inner city.”

Fear: “(That) poor people will be out of sight … and the police (are) able to apprehend (homeless) people.”

Kerry Jang, city councillor

Hope: “That we have over 1,000 people inside … (and) that we are well underway to have the interim housing in place for the following year.”

Fear: “That we only have 1,000 people inside and that someone else will die (because) we didn’t have enough capacity for them.”

Laura Track, lawyer with Pivot Legal Society

Hope: “By the Olympic Games … that there are timelines and money committed to the construction and operation of social housing on every one of the 14 (city-owned) sites.”

Fear: “That the government continues this approach of criminalizing homelessness and poverty, and relies on the police to deal with homelessness.”

Judy Graves, co-ordinator of the Tenant Assistance Program for the City of Vancouver

Hope: “(That) self-contained rooms (are made) available to homeless people in whatever neighbourhood they’re already living in.”

Fear: “That people will be shipped out of town, because survival is difficult enough in a familiar area and will be jeopardized in an unfamiliar area.”

kristen thompson/metro vancouver

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