It’s mid-October, and panhandlers are still on the streets of Salmon Arm.
This fact has prompted a renewed reminder from Downtown Salmon Arm. Manager Lindsay Wong is re-emphasizing the message from a DSA newsletter entitled, The Problem of Panhandling.
She says public education is important, particularly discouraging people from giving to panhandlers, and instead to organizations that help those in need. The newsletter also includes a Survival Guide made up by the Canadian Mental Health Association, outlining resources.
“They’re being successful downtown and that’s why they’re continuing to hang out down there,” she says of panhandlers.
The DSA attended meetings in early summer with the city’s social impacts committee and the RCMP to discuss approaches.
There was no simple solution, Wong explains, so the newsletter was created after checking with communities such as Vernon and Kelowna that are experiencing similar issues.
“With cooler weather, we’re still seeing quite aggressive panhandling on the streets and loitering,” Wong said, noting the DSA is only one player in a much broader city issue.
The term aggressive has different meanings, she says, but adds police have encountered some aggression.
Sometimes just having someone sitting on a bench where you want to sit or in an area you need to frequent can be intimidating to some people, she says.
One of the possible enforcement tools listed in the newsletter is a requirement for panhandlers to have solicitation permits. Wong says the city’s perspective is that they wouldn’t be effective and it doesn’t wish to pursue that route.
While the newsletter states that “food, shelter and other support services are available for those in need,” the town has a homeless shelter only from Nov. 1 to March 31. Organizations like the CMHA have been working hard at procuring more low-income housing.
In an August interview with Cpl. Scott Lachapelle, who has worked in communities with similar problems, he said Salmon Arm doesn’t have the resources such as shelters that vulnerable people can rely on. He favours donating to organizations aimed at getting people into housing, rather than throwing money into a hat.