The government of British Columbia is hoping to pass a law that forces homeless people with mental illness to take shelter during extremely cold weather. Rich Coleman, B.C.'s minister of housing and social development said "there's no law that technically says you can make them go to a shelter, and I think we need a law to compel them to go". However, Coleman hopes to make changes to the section of B.C.'s Mental Health Act that outlines situations in which those with mental illness can have treatment forced upon them if they risk harming themselves or others.
Police officers in B.C. have embraced the idea suggesting that "it could give police officers a solution to the "revolving door" of mentally ill people they take to shelters but who end up back on the street within hours". Some authorities have even suggested that the ability to force people off the street will free up valuable emergency resources.
On the other hand, Kelly Reid, a manager of VIHA's Mental Health and Addictions department stated: "while the act is useful for people with clearly-defined mental illnesses, it is often difficult to apply to members of the street community who can have multiple illnesses and addictions and therefore be harder to diagnose".
This idea seems quite difficult to implement. How will police officers determine who is at risk of harm or who is mental ill for that matter? What about the most basic question of all: how cold is too cold? Where will police force these people to stay? Acting executive director, David Eby, of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association argued that due to lack of funding people cannot be forced into beds that do not exist!
It never ceases to amaze me that funding is continually pumped into policing rather than prevention. This very notion turns shelters into prisons, punishing instead of supporting. It would never occur to the government that extra funding could be more useful in helping the homeless with or without mental illness to secure and maintain their very own housing.
B.C. wants law to force mentally ill into shelters