VANCOUVER — The Saskatchewan government is promising a policy review after two homeless men from the province say they were given one-way bus tickets to British Columbia.
Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer said Thursday the review and an update to the policy will be done if the Saskatchewan Party is re-elected next month.
Charles Neil-Curly, 23, and Jeremy Roy, 21, arrived in Vancouver on Wednesday afternoon. They had been living at a homeless shelter in North Battleford, Sask., but Neil-Curly said the province cut his funding, which meant he had to find somewhere else to go.
Bus station security try to block cameras from photographing Saskatchewan men Charles Neil-Curley, back centre, and Jeremy Roy as they arrive in Vancouver, B.C., on March. 9, 2016. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP)
Neil-Curly said he asked for a ticket to B.C. and was later on a bus with Roy, his friend from the shelter.
Harpauer had already ordered a review of the case to see if the policy was followed correctly but went further in a statement on Thursday, promising to review and update the policy as well.
Like other provinces, she said Saskatchewan has a long-standing policy to buy bus tickets, but that is normally done when someone needs to return to their home province or needs to reunite with family.
"These recent events illustrate that it is time to review and update this policy to ensure all individuals are treated with compassion when these decisions are made,'' she said.
"They put somebody who clearly has medical issues on a bus and said good luck to you. That's inhumane."
— Vancouver Councillor Kerry Jang
Workers from a local shelter were on hand to welcome Neil-Curly and Roy at the Vancouver bus station, offering them a place to stay.
Jeremy Hunka of the Union Gospel Mission said he was surprised and concerned to hear two young homeless men had been put on a bus to another province without any plans on what they would do when they arrived.
"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 said.
City coun. Kerry Jang said 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 said.
"I don't have to sleep in a snowbank.''
— Charles Neil-Curly
Neil-Curly said he probably would have stayed at the shelter if he had a choice. He said he had support there and his own bed.
Asked if he was happy to be in B.C., he 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 said.
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