Vancouver, home of what is largely considered Canada’s poorest postal code in its Downtown Eastside, has a new way to help the homeless. Newly modified transit benches, with backs that pop up to provide shelter, are being implemented throughout the city.
The group behind this act of kindness is a nonprofit called Raincity Housing, which specializes in helping homeless people with mental health and addiction issues. By day, the bench backs read “this is a bench,” and at night, glow-in-the-dark text changes the message to “this is a bedroom.” Raincity’s contact information is also on display to assist anyone in need.
Bill Briscall, communications manager for Raincity Housing, gives credit to a company in the city called Spring Advertising. According to Briscall, Spring Advertising approached them with the idea and asked for no compensation in return.
What began as a thoughtful and effective way to help the homeless and raise awareness began to snowball, as many viewed the gesture as the antithesis of the anti-homeless spikes seen elsewhere. Briscall modestly approved of the comparison, stating:
Yes, it’s the opposite of what’s happening in the U.K. and even in Montreal, but we still have so much to do to provide housing so that people aren’t looking at benches as an option to sleep on.
If there is one area where our neighbors to the north regularly beat us to the punch, it’s social issues. Even in the face of ridiculous anti-homeless measures taken in other countries, cities in Canada have never shied from fighting back.