Policing Street Youth in Toronto - Homeless Hub Research Summary Series

Many jurisdictions in Canada and the United States have responded to the growing visibility of homelessness with measures that have sought to restrict the rights of homeless people to occupy and inhabit public spaces such as street corners and parks, and prohibit behaviours such as sleeping in public or earning money through begging or squeegee cleaning. This serves as the basis for what has come to be known as the criminalization of homelessness, or the creation of laws and statutes that target people who are homeless such as the Ontario Safe Streets Act. One of the most controversial aspects of these laws is the authority it gives to police to issue tickets for behaviours mostly specific to homeless individuals, which can lead to long-term consequences such as mounting debt that youth cannot afford to pay, and criminal records, which pose barriers to moving off the streets. These kinds of practices must be understood in the context of broader, often political, social justice issues, such as a lack of preventative and transitional supports for youth experiencing homelessness.

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Gaetz, S., O’Grady, B., Buccieri, K., Karabanow, J., & Marsolais, A. (Eds.), Youth Homelessness in Canada: Implications for Policy and Practice. Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.

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