A PR campaign around benches for the homeless that received little attention last fall, has resulted in a flurry of international attention for Vancouver non-profit Raincity Housing.

Vancouver company Spring Advertising designed a campaign in which it installed seven modified transit benches in Vancouver and Burnaby.

The benches could be transformed into a temporary shelter, with a roof, and contained a message with contact information for Raincity — a non-profit which attempts to provide housing for people living with mental health issues, addiction and other challenges.

Bill Briscall — the communications manager for Raincity Housing — says Spring Advertising came to his organization with a fully-formed idea, and did not ask for any money.

Briscall says the benches were in place for two months, and received little attention at the time.

This past week, the benches have garnered attention in stories from two newspapers in Britain: The Telegraph, and the Independent.

The stories highlight Vancouver's benches as an antidote to anti-homeless measures in London, but Briscall notes the benches are no longer in place, and Vancouver can do much more to combat homelessness.

"Yes, it's the opposite of what's happening in the U.K. and even in Montreal, but we still have so much to do to provide housing so that people aren't looking at benches as an option to sleep on," said Briscall.

Briscall says there are no plans to put the benches back on the sidewalks of the Lower Mainland, as his organization prefers to spend its money elsewhere.

"It's something we can't afford to do," said Briscall.

"We wouldn't put money into something like that. We would put money into real, actual housing. We would want to put money into something a little more permanent, than a bench."

Briscall says he is happy the issue of homelessness is getting attention as the result of last fall's P.R. campaign, even if the coverage leaves people with the mistaken impression the benches are still in place.

CBC