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Aboriginal homeless threaten tent city if shelter closes

A group of homeless residents of the Aboriginal Central Shelter said they will form a tent city if the Vancouver shelter closes on April 20 as planned.

"Nobody wants to live in a tent," shelter resident Stuart Fraser told a press scrum on Monday morning. "Nobody wants to sleep in a park. We have no choice."

The Aboriginal facility is one of seven Vancouver homeless shelters slated to close near the end of this month when the provincial government plans to stop providing operating funds. Together, the seven facilities provide shelter to about 500 homeless on a nightly basis.

"We'd like to see Housing Minister Rich Coleman prove to us that these shelters were not built just to hide the homeless during the Olympics," said Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project. "He can prove that by funding these shelters."

Under at December 2009 decision by the BC Court of Appeals, homeless individuals have a right to erect a tent on public land if shelters are full.

"Homeless people have a right, if there is nowhere else to sleep, to sleep on public property," said John Richardson of Pivot Legal Society.

Pivot plans to supply red tents to homeless individuals who want them. The homeless group called on members of the public to support them by sponsoring 100 red tents through Pivot.

"The province needs to stop squabbling with the city over funding," Richardson said. "If the province wants help paying the bill, it should go to the federal government."

Homelessness has risen 12 per cent in Vancouver during the last two years, despite record investments by both the province and the city.

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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