I met Billy in Toronto, Canada. Billy goes to sleep every night on a piece of cardboard watching the people walk by wondering why no one will help a little.
Two days before I met Billy police ticketed him for panhandling. The fine is $110, which is a fortune to someone without an income. The solution to ending panhandling is not criminalization of homelessness. The solution to ending panhandling is getting people off the streets with housing, jobs and health services.
Billy is 32. He has been on and off the streets for 15 years. Billy says that when communities outlaw panhandling homeless people are then forced to do crimes to survive. I was told jail in Canada can be as much as $250 a day for a person. I am not the smartest man in the world but it’s pretty obvious making panhandling illegal is the least cost-effective solution to cleaning up the streets.