British Columbia

Homeless have right to tent in parks, Victoria lawyer argues

A Victoria lawyer has launched a court challenge against a bylaw prohibiting people from sleeping in tents in city parks.

A Victoria lawyer has launched a court challenge against a bylaw prohibiting people from sleeping in tents in city parks.

Catherine Boies told CBC News on Tuesday the number of homeless people in the city far exceeds the number of shelter beds available.

"What we're saying is, in circumstances where people don't have the opportunity to have some kind of shelter, they have to be able to put up some form of shelter in the city," said Boies.

The case is a counter-challenge to a permanent injunction granted to the city in the summer of 2005. The injunction permitted municipal authorities to dismantle a homeless encampment that sprung up in a city park because of a shortage of shelter beds.

Boies said she is not arguing that the homeless should be allowed to camp in parks whenever they please.

"What we're saying in this case is certainly not that people can sleep wherever they want, whenever they want," said Boies.

Ken Kelly of the Downtown Victoria Business Association said what's really needed is permanent housing for the city's 1,500 homeless.

Kelly said he is concerned that allowing the homeless to sleep in parks will increase crime and damage the city's image.

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