Thursday, November 3, 2011

City moves to move homeless

TORONTO - Councillor David Shiner sent a message to city staff Thursday to move the homeless off Toronto’s streets.

Shiner led the public works committee in voting to put a ban on camping, dwelling or lodging on city streets into a bylaw that streamlined the city’s Use of Streets and Sidewalks policy.

Councillors on the public works committee approved a laundry list of changes to the municipal code’s streets and sidewalks section.

Staff had originally recommended the ban be deleted based on public consultation.

But Shiner convinced the committee to put it back in with the provision that the ban would be subject to the application of the city’s existing Streets to Homes program.

Following the vote, Shiner said he “absolutely” wants to see the city deal with homelessness on its streets.

“I don’t believe people should be allowed to sleep on our streets,” Shiner told reporters following the meeting.

“We currently don’t permit them and that was going to be removed from the bylaw and I believe that we shouldn’t permit people to sleep on our streets and use them as their places of dwelling.”

Shiner said he hopes the change approved by the committee sends a message to city staff.

“It’s in the bylaw and it is something we want enforced,” Shiner said.

He added he wants the city to do everything it can to relocate someone to a proper home.

“But there comes a point in time when public streets are public streets and they aren’t for the right of one person to use as they want,” Shiner said.

Councillor Gord Perks accused Shiner of trying to look like he was doing something about a problem.

“Net result, things stay exactly as they are,” Perks said.

Perks fought to successfully to ensure the ban has city staff deal with homeless people through the Streets to Home program.

“Councillor Shiner attempted to pass a ‘scoop law’ that would, without reference to any kind of program to provide support to people who are homeless, simply give city staff the right to scoop them off the street,” he said.

Shiner disagreed with Perks’ characterization.

“It’s not a scoop law, it’s a proper thing to do in my opinion,” Shiner said.

City staff said despite Shiner’s change, “it is business as usual.”

Allan Smithies, the city’s project lead for the streets bylaw, said the change makes a statement “that it is not a good idea to camp, dwell or lodge on a city street.”

“We’re not going out there using the iron fist of the state to start scooping up homeless people, that was never the intent of the clause in any way shape or form,” Smithies said.

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