editorial: Toronto’s homeless to be swept away
KJ Mullins-Toronto: The big news today in Toronto is that Mayor Rob ford wants the homeless off of the streets and his crony Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, now in charge of the homeless task force, believes that using force isn’t a problem.
Goodbye homeless shelters. Goodbye panhandlers. Goodbye man sleeping on the city sidewalk. This is Toronto and you’re not welcome anymore. Mayor Rob Ford has his right hand yes man Mammoliti on the case.
With the new task force on homelessness the city’s shelters will be a thing of the past with plans to get those on the streets into ‘transitional housing’.
Community Housing won’t be part of this planned sweep with Mammoliti saying that there’s not enough resources there. That’s really a no-brainer with waiting lists for units at the 10 year mark.
City Hall is saying that the homeless won’t be sent to jail. Jail costs more than a transitional housing unit.
Community activist Paisley Rae said in an interview, “I commend Cllr. Mammoliti for publicly stating that criminalizing homelessness by placing mentally ill and homeless people in the criminal justice system is costly and ineffective. He has also noted that merely providing a place to stay is not enough support to keep someone experiencing mental health issues housed.
The directive Councillor Mammoliti claims to have received from Mayor Ford to “dismantle the shelter system” shows a clear lack of understanding of the complexities of both mental health issues and homelessness. There has yet to be demonstrated a realistic, detailed plan and funding to put other measures in place.
From what I’ve seen so far, the “answers” given are simply generating more questions.
What community partnerships are in place to support this sweeping change? Mayor Ford has a proven history of refusing financial support for province-funded nurses and other health care. What makes this different even if provincial finance can be provided? How will mentally ill homeless be provided for in the health system as they progress through transitional housing? What supports are in place to make this initiative effective?
I am deeply concerned that the Councillor’s statement that mentally ill must be removed from Toronto’s streets “by force if necessary” is in conflict with his earlier position.”
So the homeless won’t go to jail. They won’t go to the shelters that are no more. They won’t be placed in city housing. Where oh where will they go? Why hospitals of course, everyone knows that being poor and living on the streets is a disease. Actually that’s not the real reason. Good ole Mammoliti thinks that the province should be footing the bill for homeless housing so by putting street people in hospital Ontario will be doing just that.
There’s just one little problem with that plan. It’s not legal. Currently a person has to be a threat to themselves of others to be locked up in hospital. Mammoliti wants those rules tossed out and an Act written to allow his plans to have legal merit.
It’s also not illegal to be homeless said Tim Burrows, the social media supervisor for the Corporate Communications section of the Toronto Police Service during a phone interview. Burrows said that aggressive panhandling is against city bylaws but sitting on the sidewalk with a sign asking for money is not a legal issue. Aggressiveness when it comes to panhandling is when people are being verbally or physically threatening, asking for money because transit, parking lots, on the road or an ATM.
Sleeping during the day in the park is allowed. “If it’s something that the general public can do it’s legal. People sunbathe and fall asleep in the parks,” Burrows noted. At night parks are not a legal place to sleep and pitching a tent at anytime in the parks is a no-no. Sleeping on the sidewalk, as long as people can safely pass by, is also legal.
“Most of the homeless know the rules and are good about following them,” Burrows said.
This news comes just a day after the homeless were in the news because of the good work being done by Project Water. Water donated by Nestle was sent out to community agencies to help hydrate the homeless yesterday and got a lot of press. Positive press.
Perhaps down at City Hall the thinking was if we put all those poor folks up at St Mike’s we’ll be heroes too. After all a city without homeless would be the coolest city of all.
Here’s just a wild out there thought boys. If your plan works, if you put all those who live on the streets up at the local hospital and the city is free of street people, who’s going to tend to the sick. Toronto hospitals won’t have beds for those with little problems like heart attacks, strokes and the flu. It’ll be okay though because our streets look pretty and clean.