by Klaus Rohrich
Thursday, February 10, 2005
The recent law enacted by Toronto Mayor David Miller's band of Merry Socialists purports to deal with the homeless camping out at Nathan Phillips Square. Apparently the law makes it illegal for anyone to camp out in public spaces, such as parks and other city-owned properties. The law supposedly carries with it a hefty fine for those convicted of breaking it.
This whole idea has the cachet of having been conceived by someone smoking crack. If I understand it correctly, a police officer sees a homeless person sleeping at Nathan Phillips Square resulting in his issuing a ticket to the homeless person. The ticket carries a fine, which the homeless person is expected to pay. Or what? How can a sane and rational human being actually believe that a homeless person could pay a fine? If someone doesn't have the wherewithal to pay rent, how could he have the means to pay a fine, and why would he even care?
This legislation betrays the total disconnect that the City Hall Brain trust has with the real world. Currently the city spends about $150,000,000 (yes, seven zeros) annually on providing for the homeless. During last month's extreme cold snap, the city spent additional money to create additional shelter beds and actually hired individuals to go out and attempt (unsuccessfully) to convince the hard core homeless to come in from the cold. If people have to be cajoled into seeking shelter from -40°
C temperatures, there's a lot more wrong with them than a social worker or a shelter bed could fix.
John Clarke and his gang of anarchists at the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) believe that the solution to the so-called problem is simple. Just throw a lot more money at it in the form of free housing and presto, the problem is fixed. Ditto with the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC), who is calling homelessness a "national disaster". They may well be right in that homelessness is a "national disaster", but the solutions to this "disaster" aren't quite as simple as OCAP or the TDRC would have us believe.
Like the debacle currently afflicting our public health care system, the debate about homelessness is being limited to the examination of certain accepted "solutions". Any attempt to examine other solutions is out of bounds. Consequently, options such as forcibly taking the homeless off the street for their own good and treating them for substance abuse or mental illness is out of bounds, at least to the mavens of Toronto City Hall and those working in the homeless industry.
The causes of homelessness are many, contrary to what OCAP or TDRC would have people believe. Yes, there are homeless people who are homeless due to poverty. However, among these are people who are alcoholics, drug abusers, the mentally ill and those who have simply given up. There are also homeless people who choose homelessness as a lifestyle option, an idea that most people dare not suggest for fear of being branded cold-hearted and uncaring.
If we really want to deal with the problem of poverty and homeless in a meaningful way, we must be prepared to examine all options available to us and we must also be prepared to take tough measures.
Those suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction must be treated, against their will if necessary, to help them overcome their affliction. In the interest of society at large, it would be beneficial to everyone if fewer alcohol or drug-addicted indigent individuals were on the street.
Those who are mentally ill should be committed to a facility that would treat their mental illness, if for no other reason than to stop them from harming themselves or others.
Those who are on the street because of poverty must be assisted to find their way back into a productive avocation, so that they can take care of themselves. Simply giving them money and moving them to a free apartment does not present a solution to their problem. If we want to help homeless children, we must discourage teenaged girls from having children out of wedlock, so that they can have the opportunity to finish their education and to acquire marketable job skills. Those who already find themselves in this predicament must be assisted in whatever way necessary to turn their lives around.
Those who chose homelessness as a lifestyle must be discouraged in the strongest possible way to abandon this lifestyle, at least within the city. This means that they should be incarcerated for vagrancy, as was once the law of the land, when times were a lot tougher and work was much harder to find.
If passing a bylaw against homelessness really worked, we could address all our problems by passing similar bylaws: a bylaw against terrorism, a bylaw against nuclear proliferation, and a by-law against spousal abuse. Trouble is, only those totally out of touch with reality could rationally subscribe to this concept. All others would look at all available options to make enlightened and effective laws.
Klaus Rohrich is senior columnist for Canada Free Press. Klaus also writes topical articles for numerous magazines. He has a regular column on retirementhomes.com and is currently working on his first book dealing with the toxicity of liberalism.Ê His work has been featured on the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and Lucianne, among others.Ê He lives and works in a small town outside of Toronto and is an avid student of history. Klaus can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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