Police reach out to Vancouver's homeless
The frigid temperatures can be deadly for Vancouver’s homeless. Emergency shelters are open but not everyone chooses to come inside. One police officer is on a mission to change that.
Const. Jodyne Keller is the homeless outreach worker for the Vancouver police. Her position was created two years ago after a woman who refused to go to a shelter burned to death trying to stay warm with a candle.
"We knew we had to create more of an outreach -- more of a continuous connection with those who are sleeping on the street," she said.
She offers the homeless food, warm clothes, pillows and blankets.
"You see a bundle sleeping under blankets but we all walk by," she said. "How many actually walk up and touch the body -- make sure it's warm, make sure they're breathing? That's the very first thing that I do."
Trusting police has always been a problem for the estimated 1,700 people who live and sleep outside.
Mark Smith, from the Raincity Housing Society, said many people who have had problems with authority in the past have grown to trust Keller.
"I know some might think it's odd that the VPD might be doing outreach service," Smith said. "It's down to who's in that role with them to make it effective -- and its working."
In addition to making sure the homeless are warm and safe, Keller offers tools to get off the street for good.
"I help them understand the process to get shelter, to get welfare, to get medical care they need," she said.
But not everyone Keller approaches wants help. She said a certain percentage of people will always choose to remain on the streets.
But others have made huge strides to improve their lives. Keller says that simply approaching people is often all it takes.
"If you do nothing more than that, you'll restore the dignity to these people that they think they lost by sleeping outside," she said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Shannon Paterson