Montreal homeless facing up to $110,000 in fines

A Montreal social worker says homeless people are frequently facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and in one case a man has collected more than $110,000 in tickets.

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Émilie Guimond-Bélanger, from the legal aid group Droit Devant, said many of the tickets are for infractions such as drinking in public and loitering, which are difficult for the homeless to avoid.

Guimond-Bélanger said she believes the homeless are unfairly targeted and that some police officers’ names are encountered on the tickets more often than others.

She said the tickets are an obstacle to getting housing.

A recent count concluded Montreal has at least 784 people who have been homeless more than four years and at least 1,357 who are cyclically homeless. Community groups have recently launched a five-year plan that aims to have 2,000 people exit the streets by 2020.

Homeless advocates have also raised concerns about excessive ticketing in Ontario, which passed the controversial Safe Streets Act in 1999 to deal with aggressive panhandling.

The number of tickets issued in Toronto under the Safe Streets Act rose from 710 in 2000 to 15,224 in 2010, according to a University of Guelph and York University study. Over that same period, the number of street youth listing panhandling or squeegeeing as their main source of income declined from 29 per cent to just three per cent.

With a report from CTV Montreal



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