Jun 11

Holyday on Panhandling: How do you solve social issues without social programs?

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.

via Q&A: Doug Holyday on the city’s panhandlers | Posted Toronto | National Post.

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.

Mar 11

Doug Holyday & Bill Blair suggest police are the answer to homelessness

Joe Warmington in today’s edition of Pizzaville Presents The Toronto Sun:

“It is true we have spent all of these resources and the homeless are still there,” Holyday said. “I met with Police Chief Bill Blair last week and asked him what could we do and he said we need tougher laws to deal with them.”

But [Toronto Shelter, Support & Housing spokesperson Patricia] Anderson, who says there are incalculable savings in emergency room costs and the like, said Streets to Homes has helped 3,000 people to move from outside into homes and that there has been a “51% reduction in outdoor homelessness since 2006.”

Are we sure?

via Streets to Homes program needs citys scrutiny | Joe Warmington | Columnists | News | Toronto Sun.

First of all: crappy article. The subtle narrative throughout seems to be that, despite some initial issues, the city’s Streets to Homes program has improved a lot and been successful in helping members of the city’s homeless population find permanent housing. Statistics back this up, and aren’t rendered irrelevant because the writer asks “Are we sure?”

Are there inefficiencies and improvements that could be made? Almost definitely. But instead we get stuff like this:

In fact, while it may have found a way to bring some people in from the street, it appears to anybody living downtown that every street corner is still filled with just as many vagrants as ever.

“They will tell you it’s creating improvement but I see just as many homeless as I did 10 years ago when I got into politics,” said Mayor Rob Ford.

Screw statistics. We have a gut feeling that the homeless problem is as bad as ever!

Also: apparently five years is more than enough time to completely eliminate homelessness and the fact that this program hasn’t means it’s a total failure.

Back to Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday’s statement: could we see this administration move to remove funding for support organizations like Street to Homes and instead give the police more funds and powers to ‘deal’ with the homeless population?