Vancouver police program targets homeless people, housing advocate says
VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver housing advocate says a police program aimed at trespass-prevention unfairly targets those who are homeless.
Karen Ward shared an image of the program on Twitter, calling it “horrible.”
“Some people call it the war against the poor, but this is a very scary situation,” Ward told CTV News Vancouver. “They’re asking if they can just pick people off the street.”
The Vancouver Police Department says the Trespass Prevention Program started as a pilot back in August. Businesses and residential buildings have the option to join, giving officers on patrol automatic permission to compel people to move on if they’re blocking entrance ways.
Most recently, those in the program have been given the option to post a sign in a window or doorway. VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin told CTV News in an email that the sign gives police “visual confirmation that a building is participating and allows them to clear door and entrance ways.”
Visintin says around 100 properties have joined the program and the feedback received so far has been positive.
“Our patrol officers also connect people with housing resources should those people want it,” she added.
But Ward argues it unfairly targets “homeless people, people who are unhoused, drug users, and people who have nowhere to go, poor people.”
City Coun. Pete Fry says the program aims to be a proactive measure, to cut down on the number of 911 calls.
“In my understanding it’s to identify places where they have persistent and continuous problems of that nature and multiple calls for service,” he said. “Too often, we see these scenarios where it’s a barista having to deal with this to open up their shop in the morning or it’s somebody coming out of their car with groceries trying to get into their co-op stairwell.”
Fry also admits it is part of a larger issue, acknowledging that in many cases, those people being asked to move on have nowhere else to go.
“Where can we find better places for folks to go than the doorway of a small business or the stairwell of a parking lot co-op downtown?” Fry said.
The provincial government has promised more temporary housing and a 60-bed navigation centre to help get more people off the streets, but that won’t happen until the spring.