Fair Change Community Services

asking Toronto for a little fair change

Category: Uncategorized

Fair Change Launches A New Website

You are welcome to check out our new website at

www.FairChange.ca

Thanks for your support!

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Begging For Change – Solutions to end the street-ticket cycle

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To present practical solutions for dealing with tickets received by people who are street involved. We want all the actors, (social workers, prosecutors and police officers), to see the ticketing cycle from all angles and be able to navigate the process in a helpful way.

Our Keynote speaker (Justice Richard Schneider) is going to talk about the availability of alternative solutions to tickets, and how we can use the court as a positive tool in the process.

Our first panel of speakers will talk about motivations and interests. Police officers, social workers and prosecutors will describe what they want out of the process.

Our second panel of speakers, a Justice of the Peace, defence counsel, social worker and police officer, will talk about practical things that can be done to break the cycle – “diverting” charges and getting people into treatment or housing instead of a fine or jail.

The conference is happening the afternoon of June 29th, at Verity Club at 111D Queen Street East, Toronto  from 12:30 to 4:00.

Please RSVP to fairchangecs@gmail.com

Fair Change Hosting a Street Ticket Conference

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Email fairchangecs@gmail.com for more information

How Much is the Safe Streets Act Really Costing Ontario?

There are 2 documents that can give us the answer. The first was published by the Government of Ontario, and it can be found here: (POA ConsultationPaper)

The Second is a Study published by professors from Guelph and York University and it can be found here: (CanISeeYourID).

The POA Consultation Paper tells us that there are approximately 1,650,000 Provincial Offence Act Charges (POA Charges) laid per year.

Thanks to the 2011 study we know that in 2011 there were 15,324 Safe Streets Act (SSA) charges laid. The study indicated that the number of SSA charges was increasing every year – but for the sake of argument lets estimate that the charges stayed steady at 2011 levels.

 MATH TIME: (15324/1650000)*100 = 0.93% or about 1%

About 1% of all Provincial Offence Charges are Safe Streets Act Charges

POA Consultation Paper tells us that about one quarter of all POA Charges are laid in Toronto and that Toronto POA Court Costs about $50 million dollars per year to run. This accounts for the buildings, the prosecutors and the administration staff. If we assume that Toronto is being about as fiscally responsible as the other cities in the Province we can estimate that POA Court costs the Province of Ontario $200 million per year.

MATH TIME: 1% of $200,000,000 = $2,000,000.

 The Ontario Safe Streets Act Costs Ontario $2 Million per year

 2 million dollars per year – and what are we getting for our money? With other POA Charges, like speeding, the cost is recouped when people pay their tickets. But SSA Tickets are Only given out to people who are on the street begging for money. The study shows that less than 1% of SSA tickets are ever paid, so almost none of that money is being recouped.

Time to put an end to this wasteful law!

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Fair Change In the Media

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Toronto legal clinic helps homeless fight unpayable ‘nuisance’ tickets

Osgood Hall students tackle the costly legacy of Mike Harris’ “squeegee kids” law, which some say makes no “financial or moral sense.”

 Read the rest:

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/03/09/toronto-legal-clinic-helps-homeless-fight-unpayable-nuisance-tickets.html?fb_ref=Default

Sign the Petition to Repeal the SSA

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Please sign this petition to repeal the Safe Streets Act, Ontario’s wasteful and unfair anti-panhandling legislation. We have an MPP who will present the petition to the Ontario Parliament on 17 Feb, when the Ontario Legislature resumes. We need as many signatures as we can get by then. Please share! Thanks for your support.

Click the link below to sign the petition.

Repeal SSA

https://www.change.org/p/the-legislative-assembly-of-ontario-repeal-the-safe-streets-act?utm_medium=email&utm_source=notification&utm_campaign=new_petition_recruit#share

Panhandling Law Wastes Tax Money, Hurts Homeless

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Anti-panhandling legislation in Ontario is costly and ineffectual. These are the results of a recent study done on the Ontario Safe Streets Act (SSA). Implementing the Act has cost Ontarians close to $1 Million. The fines or jail time for panhandling are given to people who are largely homeless, mentally ill and/or suffering from addictions. The fines given out so far total over $4 million. Almost none of that money has been collected, showing that as a penalty, fines do not work on panhandlers.

 

If panhandlers are not homeless they soon might be. The maximum penalty for panhandling is 6 months in jail. When jail over 30 days is imposed social assistance programs like ODSP and OW stop paying rent for the incarcerated person. This can lead to eviction, so when they are released panhandlers are forced back onto the street, actually increasing homelessness.

 

Outstanding panhandling fines count against a driver’s license, so the SSA makes it harder for homeless people to find jobs, keeping them on the street longer.

Fair Change Community Services is a free legal clinic that helps people to fight panhandling tickets and reduce debt from past, unpaid tickets. As a member of the Coalition to Repeal the SSA, Fair Change calls upon the Ontario Government to take action against this wasteful and hurtful legislation.

To download the study visit: http://www.homelesshub.ca/caniseeyourID

You can view the Coalition’s Website here: http://www.homelesshub.ca/RepealSSA

How to address Panhandling Without the SSA

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“IF WE REPEAL THE SSA HOW WILL BUSINESSES AND COMMUNITIES BE ABLE TO ADDRESS UNWANTED PANHANDLING?”

It’s a fair question here is the answer

1. Other legislation exists to deal with behaviour that is problematic

        Sections of the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) can be used to police dangerous behaviours.

The SSA creates the offence of “Soliciting on a roadway”, which carries with it a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and $1000. Panhandlers who walk in live lanes of traffic can be a safety concern. This dangerous behaviour can be addressed by section 140(4) of the HTA which makes it an offence for a pedestrian to move into the path of a vehicle. The maximum penalty for this offence is $500, no jail time. Individual cities in Ontario also have by-laws that prohibit pedestrians from using roadways unsafely. By using these laws the dangerous behaviour can be addressed without penalizing people who are not behaving dangerously.

         Sections of the Criminal Code can be used to address aggressive behaviour

The SSA also creates the offence of “Soliciting in an aggressive manner”. Again, aggressive behaviour can be dangerous to the public and intimidating for other pedestrians. But because of the way that the SSA is written, even if no one was actually intimidated or feeling harassed, the panhandler can still be convicted. Section 175(1) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to impede or molest other persons in a public place. This law requires that the person charged actually offend a person. Using this law would, again, address dangerous behaviour and leave peaceful panhandlers alone.

In short, the SSA creates overly broad offences that capture behaviour that is not dangerous or disruptive to others. If the SSA were repealed police could use the more narrowly focussed pieces of legislation that already exist to address problematic behaviour.

 

2. There are already proven strategies that reduce homelessness

Through it’s overly broad language and its disproportionately steep penalties, the SSA actually increases homelessness. SSA convictions count against a person’s driving record making it impossible for people with outstanding SSA fines to obtain a job that requires driving, or a job that is away from public transit.

Additionally, if a person is housed and receiving housing assistance from the government, like disability support or Ontario Works, and they are jailed for a period longer than 30 days, that person will lose their housing funding and can be evicted.

There are proven methods of combating homelessness. Programs that focus on preventing homelessness and programs that address underlying causes have been shown to reduce homelessness. Supportive housing for people with mental health issues and addiction issues is a proven way of effectively combating homelessness. By focusing on these programs communities can address panhandling effectively without using the SSA.

For more information on proven strategies to fight homelessness read the 2014 report on homelessness in Canada here: http://www.homelesshub.ca/SOHC2014

Conclusion

The SSA is unnecessary and overly broad as a law enforcement tool. Repealing the SSA will not prevent communities from using more appropriate and focused laws to combat dangerous or intimidating behaviour.

SSA convictions limit employment opportunities and can cause the loss of housing. Both of which increase homelessness. Repealing the act will remove the negative side effects of SSA convictions and will help to abbreviate or prevent homelessness.

 

Coalition to Repeal the Safe Streets Act

We have posted several times regarding the Safe Streets Act, Ontario’s anti-panhandling legislation. We are excited to announce that the web page for the coalition to repeal the Safe Streets Act is up and running. You can view it here:

http://www.homelesshub.ca/RepealSSA

The site has additional information on the SSA including facts from recent studies on the effects of the Act.

How to Help the Homeless This Christmas

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The Safe Streets Act is Ontario’s Anti-Panhandling legislation. It penalizes individuals who panhandle by fining or imprisoning them. Research into the effects of this act have shown that the Act does not decrease panhandling and instead makes it harder for people to get off the street, gain employment, or get housing. You can look at the research here: www.homelesshub.ca

This Christmas you can help the homeless and save Ontario money by encouraging your MPP to repeal the Ontario Safe Streets Act.

You can find your MPP’s email address here: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/members/members_current.do…

Here is a sample letter that you could send:

Dear MPP,

I am writing to urge you to repeal the Safe Streets Act, 1999.

The law is a waste of police time and budgets, as the tickets issued cannot be paid by the indigent who are ticketed. Thousands of hours are spent each year by police issuing these tickets, yet less than 1% get paid.

The people getting ticketed are typically mentally ill, addicted, impoverished, and homeless: i.e., incapable of paying expensive fines. Often they accumulate thousands of dollars of outstanding fines, so some actually go to jail, simply because they are unwell.

For those capable of getting better, the spectre of these outstanding fines is a major barrier to re-entering the workplace, and otherwise working their way out of poverty. The Safe Streets Act, 1999, in short, has ended up criminalizing poverty and pain.

All of the foregoing is well established by social science research, thanks to the exhaustive work at the Homeless Hub Research and Information Centre. I would encourage you to review that research at www.homelesshub.ca

Please do all you can to repeal the Safe Streets Act, 1999, by (a) introducing a private member’s bill; (b) supporting such a bill; (c) urging the Government to repeal the bill via caucus meeting, Question Period, Statements and Petitions; and (d) speaking directly to the Premier and Attorney-General in the legislature.

Yours truly,
Your Name
Your Address (including postal code)
Your Phone Number

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