Friday, December 19, 2008

Homeless woman burns to death trying to keep warm

This is tragic. Sick-to-my-stomach tragic. Homeless Vancouver woman burns to death

Around 4:30 a.m. witnesses saw what appeared to be a burning shopping cart in downtown Vancouver, which turned out to have a person inside...

Police believe the 47-year-old woman burned to death by a fire she lit to keep warm as temperatures in Vancouver overnight fell to -9 C, with a wind chill that made it feel much colder.

In the preceding days, shelters were filled beyond capacity as homeless advocates, police and emergency workers tried to find the city's homeless shelter from the cold.

“Through the course of the evening our patrol officers had checked her...on two occasions,” said Vancouver police Constable Jana McGuinness.

“They had offered her shelter and she had declined and we are here this morning with this very sad tragedy.”

Homeless woman's body found burning in shopping cart in Vancouver

Graves, who has been an advocate for the homeless for over two decades, speculated the woman might have chosen to remain on the streets during the cold snap because many shelters do not allow street people to bring their shopping carts inside for the night.

A new shelter that will allow shopping carts is scheduled to open within days, said Graves.

The timing of this is horrible and sad. However, this problem is more than about how many shelter beds we open up. I applaud Gregor and the council's quick action on this, and without it there could have been more deaths. However, this is a bigger issue than which church we can persuade to stay open, or how many staff and volunteers we can find in the next few days.

Homelessness in Metro Vancouver has risen drastically since 2002. The problem is complex, the reasons multitudinous, you can't help people that don't want help, blah blah. Some reasons are simple: More stringent welfare regulations which kicked thousands off welfare and the closing of spaces like Riverview, which drove hundreds of patients on to the streets. I'm going to do some research into this, and into the numbers, but it's not always as complex as we think.

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