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politics

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="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ddotg/4985951851/"}DdotG{/a} from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist"}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.

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