‘Not something that should happen’: homeless man spends dying hours at Vancouver Tim Hortons

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A 74-year-old man spent his final hours last week in a spot where he had spent much of the last years of his life: at a nook in a Vancouver Tim Hortons.

Witnesses said the man, Ted — whose last name is not known — may have been slumped at his table, unresponsive, for several hours before he was noticed.

John Gingham, who sleeps outside the Tim Hortons every night and said he had been friends with Ted for 10 years, described him as a “good guy” who “loved his cigarettes and coffee.”

This particular Tim Hortons has become an important centre for the city’s homeless population, Graves said.

For people moving in and out of homelessness all the time, fast-food restaurants provide a nonjudgmental place for people to rest, effectively taking the place of shelters the city doesn’t have, she added.

“I would really like to thank the management and the staff of that Tim Hortons for the kindness that they’ve shown to homeless people,” Graves said. “They really have kept people alive.”

According to the latest homeless count in Vancouver, the city’s homeless population rose by two per cent to 2,181 people between 2017 and 2018. The count found over half of the people experiencing homelessness had been homeless for less than a year.

ulian Somers, a professor at Simon Fraser University who studies housing, mental health and social welfare, said the fact the fast-food restaurants are serving as makeshift drop-in centres shows the city has failed to address its homeless crisis.

“This is not something that should happen,” Somers said. “I think [a fast-food restaurant] would be a very attractive place of refuge. [But] this is not the way that their hospitality and resources are meant to be used in society, and they can’t compensate for a home, and of course they shouldn’t.”

He says fast-food workers, often young people in their first job, are being forced to serve as front-line social workers.

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