The above picture depicts City Engineers tossing the complete belongings of two homeless residents of the Downtown Eastside – shopping carts inclusive – into a garbage truck for destruction.
This event occurred Saturday, June 25th at 10:30pm, on East Hastings near Main Street. The Vancouver Police had called on the City Engineering Department to carry out these micro-house-demolitions.
In a seemingly similar incident in Feb 2009, the VPD and City Engineers destroyed a homeless man’s belongings. Legal advocate David Eby was passing by and videotaped the incident, which can be found here. Eby notes that these are likely not isolated events.
This week’s shopping cart demolitions contravene VPD standard operating procedure. Inquiries to the VPD the next day confirmed that standard procedure, should homeless people be separated or away from their belongings, is for police to tag the belongings and hold them for several days to allow time for the owner to claim them. If there is contact information in the shopping cart, owners should be contacted. Why, then, did the VPD call a garbage truck to destroy the belongings in the middle of the street?
Thirdly, the City of Vancouver Engineering department also participated in destroying the last belongings of homeless folks. If the police ask the Engineering department to carry out such unconscionable actions, are they obliged to carry them out? The answer should be ‘NO’. City Council should direct City staff to treat homeless people and their belongings with the care, respect, and due process.