British Columbia

Housing activists plan Olympic 'red tent' campaign

Activists in Vancouver are threatening to hand out red tents to street people in the hope of attracting international attention to the problem of homelessness in the city during the Olympics and forcing the federal government to come up with a housing strategy.

Activists in Vancouver are threatening to hand out red tents to street people in the hope of attracting international attention to the problem of homelessness in the city during the Olympics and forcing the federal government to come up with a housing strategy.

The Pivot Legal Society said Monday it was ready to distribute 500 of the bright red tents emblazoned with slogans like "Housing is a Right" and "End Homelessness Now!"

The goal is to convince federal authorities to establish a national housing strategy, according to Pivot.

"If they do that as a result of this campaign, then we will have an Olympic housing legacy, which is one of the promises made by the federal government, which they have taken no steps towards achieving" said the group's executive director, John Richardson.

A B.C. Court of Appeal decision on a case launched in Victoria paved the way for the red tent campaign, said Richardson.

The court ruled last month that the homeless can set up temporary camps in communities where no shelter space is available.

Pivot plans to meet with the City of Vancouver soon to discuss the tent campaign.

City not on side

But one city councillor told CBC News Monday that the city is not in favour of tent cities and suggested that there are ulterior motives behind Pivot's campaign.

"A number of other activist groups have raised questions as to whether the Pivot campaign is simply a PR campaign that's exploiting homeless people for their own gain," said Coun. Kerry Jang, a member of Gregor Robertson's Vision Vancouver party.

The city would rather help the homeless find shelter space, said Jang.

Another housing advocate supported the Pivot campaign and said there is a legitimate need for the tents.

"This is a really important campaign," said Laura Stannard of the City Wide Housing Coalition.

"The federal government has completely dropped the ball."

Pivot said it would hold off deciding how to proceed with its red tent campaign until it hears the city's plans for the homeless during the Olympics.