Some lawyers help the homeless

Here’s an oddly unfocused CTV piece on a team of lawyers who help homeless people deal with tickets – there’s clearly a lot more to be said about the whole issue, but a headline like People experiencing homelessness in Montreal can rely on legal aid when fined makes a sweeping statement which I doubt is even remotely true for everyone.

In any case, what’s the point of ticketing people who obviously can’t pay, and who can end up in jail because of unpaid tickets? I’ve looked back through news stories about intentions to change this practice, but it doesn’t change. Two years ago, Christopher Curtis cited a study that showed “the homeless accounted for roughly $15 million in unpaid tickets over a 15-year period in Montreal. Processing the tickets through the court system often costs more than the value of the fine itself.” So it’s not like the city’s collecting any revenue from this practice. With policing and jailing, and the damage to human beings, it creates a net loss.

Continuing to ticket the homeless pushes people without resources into a deepening hole they know they can never climb out of. This is clearly a practice we need to rethink, and one of the arguments against “policing” as a front-line method of approaching people who don’t entirely fit into our lockstep society.