For some reason, Councillor Doug Holyday did a mini press-tour last week to hype up the idea of new bylaws against panhandling. Panhandling — especially the aggressive variety — is definitely a problem worth addressing, but what’s interesting about Holyday’s approach is that he seems bound and determined to solve the issue without resorting to investment in social programs. Even if those social programs are effective.
The National Post’s Natalie Alcoba scored a brief Q&A with the deputy mayor:
Q: So are you talking about a bylaw that bans panhandling?
A: I don’t know if it bans it, but it controls how it happens and it certainly makes it illegal for people to be in your face and for people to block the sidewalk and use public property as their own. [The police] say to control the matter, we have to have better laws. It’s about having a bylaw with teeth. What happens now is that they do get a ticket or a citation, but there’s nothing they can do with it. If they had a drivers license that we could attach the ticket to…
Q: Would the city invest more money in shelters, what would happen to the people who are on the street?
A: I suggest for one thing if we had better control over the matter they wouldn’t come here in the first place. Because we’re so lenient with our controls, that’s like inviting them. They come to the city of Toronto because they can get away with doing things they can’t do in their own homes. I think we’d probably have to invest less, because there would be fewer people coming here requiring our help.
He seems to indicate that the police should do more than issue a ticket or citation to panhandlers. I would assume that means throwing them in jail. It’s either that or he wants to turn them all into motorists so we can revoke their driver’s license when they’re caught panhandling.
Some conservatives seem blind to the fact that, for all intents and purposes, jails and prisons are social programs. Worse, they tend to be incredibly expensive and not very effective ones.
True to his political stripe, Holyday is dismissive on the idea of investment in social services. Meanwhile, a 2010 report indicates that the City of Toronto’s Streets to Homes program helped the outdoor homeless population by 51% between 2006 and 2009.
There’s also this, from the same report:
The costs of providing affordable housing are less on average ($31 per day) than the use of emergency shelters ($69), jails ($142) and hospitals ($665) when people are homeless.
Huh. Still, though, if only these people had driver’s licenses.