Solving panhandling with housing

May 6, 2008 at 8:58 pm Leave a comment

Ten years ago, panhandling and bongo drum playing were the big social issues in Victoria. Since then a more complex set of issues are front and centre, including addiction, mental illness and chronic homelessness among Victoria’s street community. Yet Toronto’s efforts to rein in street issues is focusing on panhandling. An article in today’s Globe tells of a component of Toronto Mayor David Miller’s Streets to Homes program aimed at getting chronic panhandlers off the streets.

Brad Butt, president of the Greater Toronto Apartment Association, which represents landlords, was one of several business spokesmen who appeared at yesterday’s committee to endorse the strategy.

In an interview, he said the city’s approach makes economic sense: “The right-wing guys, even though I agree with them most of the time on issues, if these guys are dollars-and-cents councillors, then this is clearly the most effective way, the most efficient way and the cheapest way to deal with this problem.”

He said that compared to the enormous costs of hospital beds, jails and homeless shelters, the cheapest way to help is to provide panhandlers with social services such as housing allowances and mental-health or addiction counselling.

I think we have to acknowledge that panhandling will always be with us. We can drastically reduce it by providing housing and services but as social assistance only provides the bare essentials it’s only natural that some will continue to supplement their meager income with spare change. After all, there’s no law stating you can’t stand on a street corner cap in hand. And panhandlers can’t really be removed from the streets without also banning the clipboard-wielding sidewalk solicitors from Greenpeace/Amnesty International/Unicef, et al from Victoria’s downtown.

Entry filed under: social issues.

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