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Is the City About to Crack Down on Homelessness?

Just re-added to a proposed new bylaw: a provision that would seemingly prohibit sleeping on the streets.

Photo by {a href=""}DdotG{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

“No person shall, without approval of the general manager, camp, dwell or lodge on a street.”

If that sounds familiar, it may be because we first discussed those words last month. They are—or were—part of a proposed new streets harmonization bylaw, which attempts to bring order to a patchwork of regulations left over from pre-amalgamation days. The provision would, or so some homeless advocates worried, effectively prohibit sleeping on the streets.

As the proposal went through the usual process of being discussed with the community and by staff internally, that provision got stripped out, and no reference to dwelling or lodging on the street was included in the streets bylaw that went to the Public Works committee today for discussion [PDF]. Homeless advocates were relieved.

As it turns out, that relief may have been premature.

During the debate Councillor David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale) reintroduced that provision as an amendment to the streets bylaw. After some discussion at the meeting he modified it with the following addition: “subject to application of the City’s interdepartmental protocol for homeless people camping in public spaces.” So, it seems: if the municipal government has a protocol for dealing with homelessness which permits sleeping on the streets, then sleeping on the streets may be permitted. If, however, the City has no such policy (and of course the City can change its own policies), then the bylaw prohibiting camping on the street would take effect.

The Public Works committee, in a vote a few minutes ago, passed the harmonized bylaw with that amendment; it will now go to a meeting of full city council for a final debate and vote.

CLARIFICATION: Councillor Gord Perks maintains that the effect of the addition to the amendment is that the current City protocol is attached to the motion itself, meaning perhaps that the City might not be able to change it so easily. There is still some confusion about the precise implications of the amendment; we’ll update with additional details as they become available.


  • Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

    My understanding is that it is already illegal to sleep on the streets, subject to the City protocol for homelessness. In other words, this clause of the new bylaw has zero effect. At least, that’s how Councillor Gord Perks (who suggested the friendly amendment) described it.

  • Apriori

    How are they going to enforce it? Put all the homeless on a bus out of the city? Give them a ticket?

    • Bryan Cook

      Give them a ticket for forty dollars and if they can’t pay it they have to pay another fine

    • Anonymous

      It’s our idiot deputy mayor’s opinion that people on the street, besides being violent, all come to Toronto from elsewhere, so he’d probably support the bus idea.

  • Anonymous

    Lets hope this amendment has no real effect. The sidewalks are far safer places for the homeless to sleep than in alleys or back lots where they can be easily physically attacked without drawing the sort of attention the attackers would if the homeless person were on a side walk. I agree though that no one should be sleeping on the streets with all the cars, they’d be run over and killed in no time, but sidewalks are a different matter. I believe what we need is more smaller shelters spread across the city, the large ones can be very dangerous for those staying there. We also need a lot more supportive long term housing for the mentally ill and those with addiction problems.

    As well welfare rates need to be increased or at at least adjusted by the cost of living in various cities, its impossible for someone to remain safely housed in Toronto, unless they’re lucky enough to find a cheap room somewhere which is very hard to do, on just $535/month let alone afford healthy foods, clean clothes, a phone, and transit fares, all the basic things needed for finding any job but which welfare doesn’t pay enough to cover leaving too many trapped on welfare.

    Toronto desperately needs at the very least one shelter designed for young LGBTQ people who end up homeless after being kicked out of their homes by their parents for being LGBTQ or by leaving “on their own” for the relative safety of the streets to escape the abuse at home after their parents found out they’re LGBTQ. Its estimated that 40% of homeless youth in Toronto are LGBTQ many of whom cannot find safe shelter anywhere.

  • Anonymous

    However you approach the problem or its solution, the fact remains that there are more human beings lying prone in the streets of Toronto than virtually any big American city (possible exception of SF). This is unacceptable and something new needs to be tried.

  • Brian Skene

    The Protocol for Homeless People Camping in Public Spaces stipulates that Shelter, Support and Housing Administra­tion staff conduct a needs assessment of the individual­s camping at each location and exhaust all service options before a decision to exercise by-law enforcemen­t powers occurs.

    I don’t have an intimate knowledge of how this may affect the homeless, but from first glance it sounds like Law Enforcement can’t simply make arrests or harrass the homeless without attempting to help them find suitable shelter first.

    I’m sure someone will have a better understanding of how this protocol is used practically on the streets.

  • Miroslav Glavic

    It disgusts me that anyone finds it acceptable for people to be living on the streets.

    Lets take Jayme for example (a former homeless person I know), when he was homeless…

    If Jayme has a booze addiction, get him to AA (drug addiction to whatever their alternnative to AA is).

    It isn’t enough to just get him off the streets. Take him to a shelter or even some other type of housing.

    Help him with addictions he might have. Also not just house Jayme, help him with job training. Help Jayme get his high school diploma if he didn’t finish.

    Jayme will eventually get a steady job after his training and will be able to move out of shelter/community housing/other type of housing. He will be able to afford to rent his own place and out of community/other type of housing so someone else on the waiting list can do the process over again.