Cross Country Checkup·Checkup

Is opening up parks and public places a solution for the homeless?

Camping downtown: Homeless people in B.C. have won a court battle for the right to set up tents in parks and public places. Is this a good solution for homelessness?
In 2016, 106 people died in relation to homelessness, which is double the annual amount. (CBC)

Camping downtown: A B.C. Supreme Court has struck down bylaws that stop homeless people from putting up shelters and sleeping in city parks. Is opening up parks and public places for temporary shelters a good solution for ending homelessness?

With guest host David Common.

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It seems like a strange solution -- allowing the homeless to set up in city parks. Making a home out of a public place. But that is what a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled in a case involving homeless people in Abbotsford. Not allowing it -- the court said -- is a violation of the Charter's right to security of the person. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson wrote: "I conclude that allowing the City's homeless to set up shelters overnight while taking them down during the day would reasonably balance the needs of the homeless and the rights of other residents of the City." 

Abbotsford is hardly alone. Many Canadian cities have people curled up over heating grates and door ways. Or temporary tents erected in far flung corners of  parks or unused city land.

Homelessness is on the rise. On any given night 35,000 Canadians are homeless - either on the street, in emergency shelters or in what's called "provisional accommodation." Advocates say when government fails to provide the necessary housing -- people need the right to create shelter in public places in order to survive 

Others argue that right would put vulnerable people in an even more dangerous situation. Or that parks should not be used by anyone to sleep.

Earlier this week, the governments of both Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador pledged to end chronic homelessness over the next ten years. 

Today we want to hear what you think about all this? Is homelessness a visible problem where you live? What do you think should be done about it? Are parks and other public places good places for the homelessness? 

We'd especially like to hear from anyone who has experienced homelessness first hand. How did you cope? And what kind of supports would have best helped?

Our question today: "Is allowing camping in parks and public places a solution for the homeless?"

I'm David Common  ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius XM, satellite radio channel 169 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


Ian Bailey
BC Bureau Reporter, The Globe and Mail   
Twitter: @ianabailey

Tim Richter
President & CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
Twitter: @timrichter

Jeanette Waegemakers Schiff
Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary.

Stephen Gaetz
Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University and Director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. President of Raising the Roof.
Twitter: @SteveGaetz


National Post

Globe and Mail


The (Abbotsford) News

Georgia Straight

Vancouver Sun

Toronto Star

Huffington Post

The Homeless Hub