Plans are being made to resurrect Salmon Arm’s proposed panhandling bylaw.
On Aug. 13 last year, a public hearing regarding the street solicitation bylaw was adjourned after public input in order to consider more compassionate solutions.
At council’s March 25 meeting, Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond, who chairs the city’s social impact advisory committee, asked if the bylaw would still be returning in April.
She said the social impact committee would like to help council. At the committee’s March 15 meeting, members had agreed that prior to another public hearing, a group of community organizations and the RCMP should be convened to provide council with recommendations on the bylaw.
Wallace Richmond also told council the committee has learned that the provincial Ministry of Social Development is hiring a community integration specialist in each of several B.C. communities, including Salmon Arm.
Job details from the ministry state: “The Community Integration Specialist represents the ministry in the community to achieve better social outcomes for British Columbia’s most vulnerable citizens.”
“I think it’s an important step and is certainly some recognition from the province it’s a need that needs filling in Salmon Arm and the Shuswap,” said Wallace Richmond.
She said she thinks council’s meeting with the minister at the UBCM helped prompt action, and added that an outreach worker is not the only need. Services and supportive housing are equally important.
Coun. Kevin Flynn said he values the offer to put together a sub-group, noting council was reacting to concerns about panhandling from downtown merchants.
“We tried to have an open house which almost no one came to,” he said, adding that when it came to the bylaw, the committee and others were quick to criticize it.
“I’d like to see them discuss it before we discuss it.”
Council did not decide when input would be received or when the bylaw would return.
After the meeting, Wallace Richmond said council heard loud and clear at the August public hearing that fining people when they’re most vulnerable does not sit well with residents.
The bylaw initially proposed would prohibit solicitation (panhandling) in a number of places including while seated or lying on a street, from a public bench or within a public plaza. Anyone who commits an offence would be liable to a fine and penalty of not more than $2,000 and not less than $50.
Wallace Richmond said the social impact committee will continue to advocate for the homeless population.
“Only through a multi-pronged, collaborative, creative approach are we going to get a handle on this.”