Count Your Blessings – Homeless man wants to go to jail to stay warm.

‘At some point, they have to arrest me’: Homeless man wants to go to jail to stay warm

CBCDecember 24, 2016

‘At some point, they have to arrest me’: Homeless man wants to go to jail to stay warm

Christmas Eve is often a time for last-minute shopping and big meals with family or friends. But for Brian Smith, the to-do list is short this year.

The 53-year-old homeless man is out to get arrested, so he can spend the rest of the winter in jail.

“Have you ever slept in a bus shack? Have you ever foraged for food and clothing? It’s not fun, and it’s especially not fun in the winter,” Smith said.

Smith said he planned to start with a visit to the police station to tell them he was about to break a window. If that didn’t lead to an arrest, he said he would break the window and see what happens.

“At some point, they have to arrest me,” he said.

‘The lengths you’ve got to go to’

Smith said he was evicted from his previous home on Thursday and feels like jail — “the provincial, $200-a-night hotel” — is his best option to keep a roof over his head through the cold months ahead.

If he succeeds, it won’t be the first time he’s gone to jail on purpose.

In 2012, he did it twice. The first time, he slept in a cafeteria and wouldn’t leave until he was arrested.

After he was released, he broke a window and called police so he could go back.

“It’s the lengths you’ve got to go to,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of uncaring people. It’s not the way I was raised.”

Smith said he arrived at the Public Safety Building around noon Saturday to try to turn himself in. For privacy reasons, police said a CBC camera crew could not visit him in the waiting area. 

Police spokesman Const. Rob Carver said it’s unlikely Smith would end up in jail right away, and he can’t be arrested for a vague threat against property — only against an individual.

Carver said police would have to perform a “complex analysis” to try to determine whether he should be held in custody at all. He might be released right away on a promise to appear in court at a later date, Carver said. 

Smith said he’s been arrested multiple times since he was involved in a bike and vehicle collision in 2000. He said he’s had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) ever since, and that makes it difficult to find places to stay. 

He’s also been on employment and income assistance for years.

He said he feels like society mistreats homeless and impoverished people.

“I wasn’t born to impoverishment so I’m not desensitized to all the disrespect and contempt and the bully-ism. I see it, I feel it, it’s there. There’s no escaping it.”

In jail, Smith said he has a warm indoor space to do what he really loves: write poetry and read the Bible.

“Give me a solitary room at Headingley [Correctional Centre], and I’ll be happy for three months. Give me a Bible so I can go through it again,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of stuff to write.”

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