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Vision Vancouver ‘can’t support’ red tent campaign

Vancouver’s ruling party won’t endorse a plan to give red tents to homeless people during the Olympics.

“We can’t support this campaign as it's currently set out,” Vision councillor Kerry Jang told the Tyee Tuesday. “It’s primarily because of health and safety concerns.”

Pivot Legal Society just announced plans to get 500 bright red tents into the hands of Vancouver’s homeless, the Tyee reported.

The group wants city council approval for the plan. Though a recent Court of Appeal ruling may make sidewalk camping legal throughout B.C.

The group hopes publicity provided by the Olympics helps pressure the federal government to implement Bill C-304, a national housing strategy.

The city supports Pivot’s aim, but is worried about the chaos that could result from letting homeless people camp wherever they choose.

“What we’re really scared of is that a tent city goes up, it’ll be unmanageable,” Jang said.

Flu outbreaks, drug dealing, assaults and deadly fires top his list of concerns. He’s also worried tents could block sidewalks, and that homeless people could become unruly if asked to leave. Confrontations with police might result.

“If Pivot wishes to go forward, that’s something they have to think about,” Jang said.

The advocacy group hopes to get its campaign on city council’s agenda before the Olympics. Jang hasn’t heard anything, but didn’t rule it out.

Given his hesitations -- which Vision shares as well -- it’s unlikely the project would get council’s approval, he said.

City staff are currently trying to figure out how Vancouver’s bylaws are affected by the recent appeal court ruling. That decision allows urban camping in Victoria when shelters are full.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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