The Ontario Safe Streets Act (SSA) exists as one of the clearest and most obvious examples of the creation of new laws that contribute to the criminalization of homelessness.
The SSA, which came into effect in January 2000, in response to the growing visibility of homelessness in Toronto and other major cities in the 1990s, is provincial legislation designed to address aggressive panhandling and squeegeeing. While never mentioning homelessness specifically, the Act clearly targets homeless persons.
This December marks the 15th Year Anniversary of the SSA. The Safe Streets Act has had a negative impact on the safety and wellbeing of people who are homeless or street-involved. Because homeless people have to do things in public spaces that housed individuals do not (e.g., sleeping, eating and drinking, making money), the SSA has disproportionately impacted homeless individuals, contributing to the criminalization of homelessness and poverty. This in no way supports an end to homelessness.
We have formed a Coalition for the Repeal of Ontario's Safe Streets Act to address this injustice and get the Government of Ontario to repeal this bill.
POLL: Ontarians Reject “Safe Streets Act”, finding it an unsuitable way of dealing with homelessness
The results of a recent province wide poll suggest that Ontarians broadly reject the use of the “Safe Streets Act” and policing as an effective way of dealing with homelessness. In fact, a strong majority of Ontarians (56%) reject the Safe Streets Act, while only one quarter (26%) support this law.
Instead, Ontarians argue for better access to affordable housing, employment, mental health and addictions supports and an investment in prevention so that people don’t become homeless in the first place. It is clear that the use of policing and ticketing is the least preferred option for addressing homelessness.