Homeless people relocated out of Whister, Canada, ahead of Olympics

BB reader Jeremy Gruman says, "Last month, homeless people started showing up in droves in towns 100 miles or so outside of Vancouver. They had been given one-way bus tickets and were forced onto the busses. Local shelters in those communities have been completely overloaded. All so that the world can see a shiny and clean (and totally false) version of our city." Here's a related news story.


  1. This would be disgusting if it’s true-as-written Xeni, but the story you linked to says nothing about one-way bus tickets. I’d like to know whether `forced’ means that a parking lot was legally rented out to the Olympics, and people can no longer park / sleep there, or if, Giuliani-style, police are maliciously enforcing laws targeted at people who are homeless. Is this being done by private property owners or the local government?

    (and fyi, I think people who are homeless should be given resources in their chosen communities, not kicked around whenever convenient for developers, etc.)

  2. Er..There is nothing in your link about people being forced onto buses. However it does mention that many were moved out of parking lots because the Olympics are coming. Not to be mean but I think if a huge event were coming to a very small town with limited parking, you can kind of expect to be moved even if you have a monthly parking space.
    Also, I don’t get being homeless in a super expensive small ski resort town. There is is always more available opportunity for everything in a big city. Vancouver is 90 minutes away, I think…
    There is an extensive series of feature articles over at the Globe and Mail going into great detail about the homelessness situation in Vancouver It’s a complex problem:
    Vancouver City Hall has also built some waterfront condominiums for the homeless, each unit with a market value of 1/2 million dollars:


  3. the lead of the story clearly says “As Olympic organizers in Whistler, B.C., gear up for the 2010 Winter Games in February, the area’s homeless are being forced to relocate.”

    so i don’t know why people are saying the article says nothing about them being forced.

  4. With all the draconian abuses occurring in Vancouver, including curbing of free speech and artistic expression, I appreciate BoingBoing taking advantage of it’s massive readership to bring attention to, sorry, I mean utterly distract from and marginalize appropriate concerns.

    Thanks Xeni.

  5. Vancouver has OBVIOUSLY missed an opportunity for a new taste treat:

    Just remember: Soylent Green is PEOPLE!!!

  6. The unfortunate thing about your sensationalist headline and ‘blurb’ is that it doesn’t cover some of the very real problems with the Vancouver Olympics. Naysayers will look at this and just see some sloppy coverage and ‘leftist’ sensationalism. The real shit is all over the place: The prime minister delaying parliament till after the Olympics, on-going question of holding the olympics on land that was never ceded to Canada by local indigenous peoples, displacement of people reliant on low-cost housing, etc. etc.

    1. In what mad universe is delaying the opening of parliament more significant than vulnerable people being forced out of town into areas where they can’t get shelter? Human beings are being herded and you don’t think that’s a serious problem?

      1. Vancouver has longstanding issues with poor folks, abusing them in a mindboggling variety of ways. To a large extent, the Olympics are being viewed the same way as Katrina was viewed in New Orleans: A convenient spur to the on-going goal of gentrifying prime real estate. It’s a humanitarian tragedy, but it’s one we’re familiar with, sadly.

        Parliamentary shenanigans on the scale Mr. Harper is becoming accustomed to are a fresh flavour of hell with a novelty factor that draws more attention.

        Health care is still damned good though.

      2. The real shit is all over the place (ie. there are many things going on, not just the displacement of people from the streets of Whistler . . . which is probably just enforcing pre-existing vagrancy laws – not that I agree with those). Delaying parliament is about hiding embarrassing things the government is doing (like leaving a Canadian child soldier to rot in Guano Bay) and not doing (like anything about climate change). It is a deliberate strike against Canadian democracy.

        There is also the issue of land that was never ceded to Canada by local indigenous peoples.

        Finally, as with Expo 86, there is a large scale displacement of the working poor (and homeless) from Vancouver city.

        All of these are real (and typical of most cities that are about to suddenly get massive global media exposure).

        The problem with this sensationalist headline (as many others have pointed out) is that it is not sustained by any real reporting (which isn’t to say it isn’t true). The danger of sloppy reporting is that it undermines true inequalities by giving fodder to people who would rather not look or know.

  7. The forced relocation of the homeless isn’t scheduled to begin for another couple of weeks. This is the work of a buncha damned keeners trying to win brownie points with the IOC.

  8. At the beginning of December I went to Victoria. I was taken aback by the number of homeless I was being approached by who were panhandling. I have been to downtown Vic a number of times. I can’t remember seeing so many people who needed shelter.

    In talking with some of these people, yes, they were ushered out of Vancouver as being unwelcome.

    1. I don’t doubt for a minute that the homeless are being shooed out of garages and doorways, and even shuffled off out of Vancouver and Whistler.

      However, it would be nice if Xeni would actually link to an appropriate article that supports the allegations made in the intro.

  9. It would be amusing to see a large group of people in Vancouver who find such practices disgusting to organise a car-shuttle to help bring these people back immediately :)

  10. I live in Gastown on the edge of Vancouver’s infamous Downtown Eastside.

    Since January 1 there has been a constant police presence on our street (both Water street at our front door and blood alley behind our building). The number of homeless people in the alley has plummeted. I haven’t seen anyone get taken away, but the police are always stopping to talk to the homeless people in a very intimidating way. Even if they aren’t dragged out, the police are certainly making them very uncomfortable.

  11. This is pretty standard for Olympic cities, I worked Atlanta and saw homeless people asked relentlessly to get on buses about two weeks before the opening ceremonies. While the word “forced” is a little extreme, as I never saw physical force being used, I think it can be said that the homeless are hounded from their usual haunts and urged to just go somewhere else where they’ll be bothered less.

    I mean, it’s not like they could take some of the Olympic money and just start solving the problem in the first place, you know? Or maybe use the added housing afterward as a form of shelter?

  12. The prime minister delaying parliament till after the Olympics…
    I’d be surprised if this had much to do with the Olympics instead of, say, the inquiry about covering up handing prisoners to Afghan torturers.

  13. I live in Denver, and there were a lot of stories of the same tactics being used here prior to the Democratic National Convention. Maybe someone not at work with more time could dig up an article.

  14. Here’s a report on homeless from Vancouver claiming to have been given one way tickets to Chilliwack (a town about 100kms away from Vancouver).

  15. hmmmm – homeless people in Whistler? I think a more apt description would be “your refer smokin’ lift operator / ski bum”

  16. Actually, I shouldn’t assume that they smoke the green, but I do assume that many are earning minimum wage in the services industry and cannot afford housing in such an expensive place like Whistler. Whistler is far to remote (100 km from Vancouver up a snowy mountain) to be a place for the truly destitute. I do wonder how they will handle the problem in Vancouver’s east side. That said, “relocated” homeless people are being put up in shelters and fed on the taxpayers dime – not so draconian as they headline makes it seem.

  17. That’s weird… I’m pretty sure I left two comments here, and both were approved… must be VANOC.

  18. Someday all cities will do this, and there will be wars between cities as they try to foist their homeless onto each other. Consider it: is it cheaper to house and feed the homeless all year, or offer them $100 and a bus ride to another city (the key would be to have the city control of the buses so the homeless couldn’t get off at the first pit stop or local stop and hitchhike back.)

    Of course in many cities it is private non-profits that run homeless shelters, but I bet the cities would still opt to ship them out at high-profile times like conventions and Olympics.

    1. As an interesting side note, Victoria (BC) has started flying (usually homeless) people with provincial warrants for their arrest back to the provinces related to the warrants, as a large number of these types end up in Victoria because of the temperate weather. See here.

      There are more details to the story, but I’ll let y’all read about them in the linked article.

  19. I don’t know if there’s any evidence of this happening in BC, but it has happened elsewhere. I was in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1994 when they had the Goodwill Games. The police there really did round up bums and truck them to the 101st kilometer.

  20. As someone mentioned above, this happened for the Atlanta Olympics as well. Here’s a link with a related story, including the plans around 1996 for an alternative mascot named SpoilSport to protest the unfair treatment of the poor in Olympic cities.


  21. When I lived in Vancouver (about 2 years ago) there was a general theory that many of the homeless had been bussed there by other (colder) cities.

    Not that it makes this right of course.

  22. Still confused by the idea of being homeless in whistler. The place is very expensive in every way. Attempting to function on less than 20k/year is a silly idea up there, never mind the cold.

    As for the actual city… I suspect the Olympics is only part of the issue with attempting to get homeless off the streets. The weather -though it’s been relatively warm compared to the last couple years- is no doubt a factor since City Hall seems to take flack even when people who refuse shelter die due to the cold: http://www.vancouversun.com/story_print.html?id=1095685&sponsor=
    really I feel sorry for the City on this issue, as there seems to be nothing that can be done to please some folks. Except “solving” the homeless problem which, if done, would make it the first city ever to do so.

  23. The same thing happened in Sydney (2000). What will happen in India with the Commonwealth Games later this year?????

  24. This already happens pretty regularly as a matter of course. In the town where I grew up it was a pretty regular thing to see the busses coming in from the bigger cities to drop off the homeless, or busses from the mental institutions in other cities dropping off a batch of released patients when they were overcrowded. Those people of course were mostly soon-to-be homeless.

    Disgraceful that anyone would treat people that way.

    Here’s my proposal: figure out the schedule of these busses, dress a little shabby and score a free ride when you need to go to another town. That’d make the ‘dumping’ more expensive for its effect and discourage it.

Comments are closed.