Two homeless Saskatchewan men who say they were given one-way bus tickets to British Columbia have arrived in Vancouver.
Charles Neil-Curly, 23, has been homeless for about five months and living in a North Battleford, Sask. shelter, but he says the province cut his funding, forcing him to find somewhere else to go.
Neil-Curly says he asked for a ticket to B.C. and was on a bus later that night with his friend from the shelter, 21-year-old Jeremy Roy.
The pair reportedly received the tickets from a worker with the provincial government and Saskatchewan Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says the case is being reviewed by her department.
Workers from a local shelter were on hand to welcome Neil-Curly and Roy when they arrived at the Vancouver bus station Wednesday, offering them a place to stay.
Union Gospel Mission spokesman Jeremy Hunka says he was surprised and concerned to hear two young homeless men had been put on a bus to another province without any plans regarding what they would do when they arrive.
“We knew we needed to step up because coming to Vancouver without a plan, without a place to stay, and joining the other people who are struggling on the streets is a bad situation for Vancouver, and especially for them. It’s dangerous,” Hunka says.
Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang says the case is egregious and disgusting, noting that Roy told him he has epilepsy.
“They put somebody who clearly has medical issues on a bus and said good luck to you. That’s inhumane,” Jang says.
Governments don’t usually put homeless people on busses out of the province, he adds, noting that the City of Vancouver takes a harm reduction approach by trying to address people’s varying needs.
Neil-Curly says he probably would have stayed at the shelter if he had a choice. He had support there and his own bed.
Asked if he was happy to be in B.C., Neil-Curly replied: “Yeah, I guess. I don’t have to sleep in a snowbank.”
He chose B.C. because his best friend lives on Vancouver Island, and he hopes he’ll be able to start a new life, complete with a job and a home.
Workers at Union Gospel Mission will connect the pair with caseworkers who will find out what they need and come up with a plan, Hunka says.
The keys to getting people into permanent housing are making sure their needs are met and that they have community support, he adds.
“Putting somebody on a bus and sending them out of the province is not the way to end homeless in anybody’s life,” Hunka says.