Homeless Vernon, B.C., man living in heated, custom-built 'coffin-like' crate

Bylaw officials in Vernon are trying to determine what to do about a homeless man living in a 'coffin-like' crate stealing power from the city.

Crate has door, doorknob, wheels and an electric heater

A homeless man in Vernon is living inside this insulated, locked crate on wheels while tapping into the city's electrical system. (City of Vernon)

A homeless man in Vernon, B.C., is living in a coffin-like crate outside a former business and stealing power from the city.

"It showed up shortly after Christmas," said Clint Kanester, manager of protective services for the City of Vernon.

"It's a bit like a coffin; it's a white-washed box with a two-by-four bottom. It's got a couple of wheels that can be attached to it."

The crate has no window but is insulated and does have a door with a doorknob and lock. 

It also contains an electric heater and can be moved to various locations like a rickshaw, which is proving challenging for bylaw officials.

Stealing power from the city

"The other night my staff found him and another female inside the box. They were plugged into the electrical system from our transit washrooms."

"We do have some concerns with regards to the individual's safety, but the building code is of course not applicable to something of this nature."

Most recently, the crate was spotted outside the former Liquidation World building on 30th Avenue. Kanester said the new building owner may take steps to have the crate removed.

"Under the Trespass Act, you can ban people for certain activities or for being on your property without approval."

The 'coffin-like' crate can be moved to various locations. Here it is with the crate-owner's belongings. (City of Vernon)

Still room in local shelters

The local John Howard Society believes the crate was custom-built so the homeless man wouldn't have to sleep outside.

"There's obviously somebody in our community that does care and is very handy in building this type of stuff," said Kelly Fehr, director of operations.

He said an outreach team plans to visit the man this week.

"It can be dangerous when you're sleeping on the street," said Fehr.

"Though [the crate] would be much better than sleeping in a tent, I think coming into a shelter would be a much safer alternative."

Fehr said there is currently room in local shelters.

With files from Audrey McKinnon.