‘I can’t pay it anyway’: Why are Hamilton police ticketing the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Rick Dickson is regularly sleeping rough rather than visiting homeless shelters that he fears could expose him to a case of COVID-19 he might not survive.

“I’ve fought cancer, I get pneumonia twice a year. If I get (the coronavirus), I’m probably dead,” said the 49-year-old, who uses a walker to get around and is missing a large piece of his skull following surgery to remove a tumour.

Dickson said he understands the pandemic lockdown — even as it makes his life on the street that much tougher with the closure of meal programs and warm hangout spaces like the library or coffee shops.

But he doesn’t understand why police bothered to hand him an $880 ticket on April 3 for breaching a provincial order against gatherings of five or more people. The pandemic order is meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. (A ticket is $750 plus $130 victim fine surcharge.)

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