I just sent this letter to the Globe regarding their editorial promoting tough treatment for hostile panhandlers (apologies for the small-size scan):
To the Editors:
Stiffer enforcement of hostile panhandling laws is both impractical and inhumane.
Any beggar, whether hostile or not, that is perceived as a pest by local retailers will be swept from the streets. Consequently, jail populations will grow, as the hapless perpetrators are generally without the means to pay fines. For those not placed behind bars, expect further overflow in our dismal mental health depots.
Are such results acceptable?
Forcible confinement of panhandlers, homeless or otherwise, is monstrous. This very point is explicitly recognized even by Calgary’s business community. Recently, TransAlta and Suncor — among many others — made a comprehensive commitment to finance a cure for the city’s homelessness problems. Provision of housing, along with requisite social, medical and psychological services are centerpiece of their plan. Of course, Calgary’s booming energy sector has substantially worsened that city’s homeless situation. Nonetheless, they have chosen an approach both pragmatic and compassionate.
The problem of beggar-related harassment and violence is serious. Our approach should be serious too.
Philip Stern, Toronto
Note: The author blogs at homelessmanspeaks.com.