Repeal the Safe Streets Act
This petition had 1,497 supporters
LETTER TO THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
WHEREAS the Ontario Safe Streets Act, 1999 has had a negative impact on the safety and well-being of people who are homeless and has been proven to be costly and ineffective. We request that the Safe Streets Act be repealed immediately.
WE the undersigned petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
We call for the government of Ontario to repeal the Safe Streets Act, 1999, Ontario’s anti-panhandling legislation.
The Ontario Safe Streets Act is unnecessary.
If the goal is to address aggressive panhandling and squeegeeing, or to protect motorists from obstructing behaviour, there already exist laws and legislation to deal with these infractions. Panhandling and squeegeeing are not a significant problem in the Province of Ontario requiring targeted legislation
The Safe Streets Act is an ineffective, expensive and inhumane response to homelessness.
This anti-panhandling law targets those who are homeless, severely disadvantaged and often struggle with mental illness and/or addictions. It is one of the clearest and most obvious examples of the creation of new laws that contribute to the criminalization of homelessness.
The SSA is expensive, costing Ontarians more than $1 Million to implement (O'Grady et al., Can I See Your ID: The Policing of Youth Homelessness in Toronto, 2011). The fines or jail time for panhandling are given to people who are generally homeless, are severely disadvantaged, and often struggle with mental illness and/or addictions. The fines given out so far total over $4 million. But almost none of that money has been collected because the recipients of the tickets live in extreme poverty.
The Safe Streets Act becomes a barrier for people trying to escape homelessness.
The accumulated fines and penalties of the tickets people receive do not disappear, but become a debt that must be repaid even after people become rehoused. Outstanding panhandling fines count against a driver’s license and can affect an individual’s ability to obtain credit, so the SSA makes it harder for homeless people to find jobs, keeping them mired in poverty and potentially on the streets longer.
The maximum penalty for panhandling is 6 months in jail. When jail over 30 days is imposed social assistance programs like ODSP and OW stop paying rent for the incarcerated person. This can lead to eviction, so when they are released panhandlers are forced back onto the street, actually increasing homelessness.
Please sign our petition to call upon the Ontario Government to repeal this wasteful and hurtful legislation.
Rather than criminalize homelessness, a more positive and appropriate approach is to ensure individuals and families have the necessary housing and supports they need to avoid homelessness and a life on the streets.
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