[Hpn] City of Toronto passes no-sleeping bylaw
Thu, 20 Jan 2005 09:43:07 -0500
Jan. 20, 2005. 07:17 AM
Homeless face icy reception
Can't sleep in Nathan Phillips Square
Mayor promises no arrests in his plan
CITY HALL BUREAU
The city moved one step closer yesterday to banning homeless people from
sleeping in Nathan Phillips Square, despite a public outpouring of
Mayor David Miller assured a small crowd that had gathered to protest
the move the ban would only be a "little nudge" to move people along
once they get the supports they need from outreach workers.
"Nobody is proposing arresting people. I don't think that's acceptable.
It's not illegal to be poor in this country and it shouldn't be," he
said after the city's policy and finance committee overwhelmingly
approved his plan to end street homelessness in Toronto.
"However, the strategy is to get people the services they need where
they are, on the street, particularly in Nathan Phillips Square, and
find them housing options. And once they're offered options, to let them
know they need to move on."
The report will now proceed to city council at the end of the month,
where it will likely be approved.
Councillor Howard Moscoe said it's wrong for people to appropriate
public space by living there full-time.
"Public space is public space. Nobody has the right to take public space
and make it private space. And if the Bank of Commerce set up in Nathan
Phillips Square to peddle credit cards without a licence or authority of
the city, I'd be the first to throw them off," said Moscoe (Ward 15,
Councillor Maria Augimeri (Ward 9, York Centre) provided the only
dissenting voice among the 10-member committee, calling the ban a way of
"stomping on humanity."
Miller's plan commits $18.4 million to helping get people living on the
street into homes. It sets out a four-pronged approach, including hiring
six new outreach workers to provide one-on-one service to people on the
street, building 1,000 new affordable housing units every year and
lobbying senior governments to build more supportive housing units,
issue more rent supplements and increase the number of mental health and
addiction-treatment beds for homeless people.
But, it is the fourth prong — enforcement — that people came to city
hall to contest yesterday.
`It's not illegal to be poor in this country and it shouldn't be'
Mayor David Miller
More than 30 people packed the committee room and spent almost five
hours calling the proposed ban on sleeping in the square before city
hall "illegal," "inhumane," "disturbing," "ill-advised," and a form of
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty member Gaetan Heroux threatened
councillors that the ban would signal a war against the city's homeless.
"If this city wants to encourage its people, its citizens, to adopt a
policy of social cleansing, then we will adopt a policy of social
unrest," he warned.
Homeless advocate Michael Shapcott called the ban the "thin edge of the
wedge" and worried it would lead to the criminalization of street
homelessness everywhere in the city.
"Nathan Phillip Square is relatively safe. It's relatively visible. If
you drive people out of visible spaces like Nathan Phillips Square, it
will be harder to reach them," said Shapcott, a member of the Toronto
Disaster Relief Committee.
Provincial outreach worker Sheryl Lindsay, who has helped women with
mental health issues living on the street for 17 years, concurred that
outreach can't exist in a coercive environment.
"This is the antithesis of trying to build supports and relationships
with people," she said. "I really feel that it will drive people
underground ... away to places where they are more at risk."
University of Toronto criminology professor Mariana Valverde warned the
ban is not practically enforceable and symbolically negative.
"Homeless people have a greater claim to the city's public space than
those of us who have plenty of private space," she argued.
Only two people spoke publicly in support of the ban.
Preparing for a crowd it worried might become aggressive, the city took
extra security measures, stationing five guards inside the committee
room and locking all entrances to city hall to the public except one.
The precautions were unnecessary: the crowd remained peaceful.
This message is certified virus-free..
Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
Version: 7.0.300 / Virus Database: 265.7.1 - Release Date: 1/19/2005