I originally posted this piece in 2010, prior to the Vancouver Olympic Games. Since I wrote this piece, Kelowna has cracked down on the visibly homeless, removing camps, and all but eliminating homeless people and their shopping carts from the downtown core. I’m interested in finding out why.
While I was dreaming the shopping cart condo complex – in Vue 3d, no less – I came across this story about Peter Samuelson’s solution for Los Angeles’s homeless problem. I like the practical solution. However, in a town where homelessness is considered criminal activity, a practical solution, such as Samuelson’s is likely doomed to fail.
I say criminal because back in 2005–2006 Kelowna bylaw enforcement officers and the RCMP routinely searched and confiscated shopping carts because their bearers were in possession of stolen property, and in some cases, suspected of drug dealing. Credit goes to the BCGEU and some Kelowna citizens who complained against the city’s actions. The BCGEU even offered to buy shopping carts for the homeless.
The Original Post
In a bold move yesterday, the provincial government of BC announced that shopping carts with tarps will have their status upgraded to mobile home. The initiative, a private members bill brought forward by Liberal backbencher Al Horning, passed with a 98% yes vote.
“It was a brilliant piece of legislation,” said a giddy Gordon Campbell, Premier of BC.
“When the legislation goes into effect on May 1st we expect the homeless rate to drop by at least 75%,” Campbell continued. “By 2010 BC will be the most beautiful place in the world because all shopping cart mobile homes will be regulated and their owners will be forced by the new legislation to maintain their homes at a specific standard of cleanliness. BC will slso have the lowest homeless rate in the world.”
Civic leaders are less thrilled by the new law. Vancouver’s mayor, Sam Sullivan said that the province is placing an unfair burden on municipalities because not only are the carts considered mobile homes, but some of the ad hoc shopping cart villages are to be rezoned as mobile home parks. Stanley Park’s Beaver Pond and Lost Lagoon and the tract of land adjacent to Kelowna’s Mission Creek Park Ecco Centre are among the list of newly designated mobile home parks.
“The burden of building and maintaining infrastructure is being forced on us by the province,” stated Sullivan. “Unless the province ponies up with some development dollars, we’ll have to raise taxes substantially.”
“As much as I care for the plight of our homeless population,” bemoaned Sullivan, “I can’t in good conscience support such an initiative.”
Developers and realtors in most major centres are thrilled by the news.
“Our architects have been working on an infrastructure and high rise plan since the news broke last night,” said A.J. Sawchuck, of Sawchuck, Ischuck and Waschuck, one of the largest developers in the country. “We expect to sell the units for $55,000 each in places like Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George. I expect they’ll list for $35,000–$45,000 everywhere else.”
Stores like Costco and Walmart are losing carts at an unprecedented rate as realtors and speculators, including the homeless, hoard the soon-to-be valuable commodity.
Many shopping cart people are abandoning their smaller carts, opting for the roomier Costco and Walmart shopping carts.
“It’s ridiculous, dude,” said 18-year old Kelowna Walmart clerk Tyler Bedosian. “You know, like you get used to maybe five, ten a week disappearing, but dude, we’re like down to like 30.”
“Dude, like don’t even ask,” Bedosian said about the availability of canvas or other tarps at the store.
“My boss is so choked,” he continued. Store management refused to comment, stating that they’ll issue a public statement once they’ve received direction from corporate.