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'We're not thieves': Low-barrier shelter resident responds to theft complaints

FILE: Low barrier shelter on Commercial Drive. (Google Maps/Screenshot)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A man who lives in a low-barrier shelter along Commerical Drive is speaking out after businesses in the area complained about an uptick in crime since the shelter opened.

Donald Smith, who lives in the shelter, says there is no proof that shelter residents are to blame.

“A lot of people think we’re thieves, no we’re not thieves,” he adds. “If people from the shelter are stealing, then let’s see the proof of that. It could be anybody, why blame the shelter for the problems and all that stuff?”

RELATED: Businesses in heart of Commercial Drive say low-barrier homeless shelter has caused uptick in crime

People making these complaints should get a better idea of who’s actually living in the shelter, Smith adds.

“There should be a dialogue, some of the businesses should come out to the shelter and do a community gathering,” he adds. “Talk with your neighbours, like how we did it back in the days.”

He hopes business owners will have more compassion, noting a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to end up living in the street.

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Smith says a lot of people living in an expensive city such as Vancouver could easily end up right where he is.

“You never know, somebody could have a financial collapse or something like that and you know they’re on the street,” he says. “There’s people out there who are living in tents, who are working full-time jobs.”

Some of the businesses complained about discarded needles, shoplifting and threats to employees, however, city staff says it’s had few complaints about the shelter and calls the operator “experiences and professional.”