Don’t criminalize people for sleeping while poor


NOVEMBER 27, 2015 12:33 AM

Re: “Neighbours fed up with tent city,” Nov. 25.

Who is really harmed and at risk?

People in the tent city are being stereotyped, scapegoated for anything unpleasant happening in the neighborhood and publicly vilified. The real terror here is not the tent city, but rather the hatred expressed by a vocal minority.


The idea that tent cities are unsafe reveals the ugly, prejudiced belief that people living in poverty are intrinsically violent, untrustworthy and menacing. It also deflects from the real lack of safety for people sleeping outside. In April, two men in Nova Scotia were sentenced to life in prison for killing a homeless man by dousing him in gasoline and setting him on fire.

It’s not just individuals who manifest this hate. As a society, when we force people to pack up and move every day we say: “Your life doesn’t matter. We don’t care about the physical and mental harm we are causing to you — we just don’t want to see you anymore.” The willingness to criminalize and confine people in poverty rather than address the fundamental inequities that create poverty and homelessness shows us how self-absorbed and sick our society is.

We can create safe and inclusive communities, but to achieve this we will have to become good neighbours. We have to see homeless people as part of our communities. As a start, we will have to stop criminalizing and blaming people for being poor, and look at what our roles are in creating and perpetuating the harms being caused.

Eko Joshua Goldberg

and Ashley Mollison


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