Homeless man sues to sleep in Vancouver parks

A man sleeps on a bench in Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver.



VANCOUVER -- A homeless man is going to court to challenge Vancouver bylaws he believes violate his constitutional rights after being ticketed by police for camping out in city parks.

Pivot Legal Society filed suit Thursday against the City of Vancouver on behalf of Clarence Taylor, claiming police and engineering staff approached him about 100 times between 2009 and 2012 while he was staying overnight at different parks.

The 57-year-old, who has lived in various shelters and single-room occupancy hotels throughout Metro Vancouver, said he felt much safer spending his evenings in a breezeway on Kitsilano Beach.

But he claims city engineering staff and police constantly told him to leave the beach and go to a shelter either downtown or in the suburbs.

“Just because I’m homeless, why should I leave?” Taylor asked. “I don’t like Surrey.”

He said he received eight bylaw tickets in 2009 for violations banning the erection of structures not authorized by the city’s engineering department. Taylor claims the structure was a tent he made from a tarp.

One section of the parks control bylaw explicitly prohibits people from setting up tents in city parks without permission.

“That activity shouldn’t be illegal, it shouldn’t be ticketed and the city engineers shouldn’t be using this bylaw as a legislative cattle prod to move people along,” Pivot lawyer Scott Bernstein said.

Vancouver city Coun. Andrea Reimer said as far as council understands, the bylaw does not prohibit homeless people from sleeping outside.

“It’s an issue of enforcement,” she said, noting it was meant to prevent permanent encampments or businesses from setting up in a park.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has asked Chief Const. Jim Chu and city manager Penny Ballem to look into whether police and bylaw officers are enforcing the statute the way it was intended.
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