City targets panhandling

Vernon council instructed administration Tuesday to develop a comprehensive plan to address panhandling

People begging for money is drawing increased  scrutiny at Vernon city hall.

Council instructed administration Tuesday to develop a comprehensive plan to address panhandling, including rapid implementation of the strategy.

“It’s become more of an issue,” said Coun. Scott Anderson, who met recently with some local businesses concerned about panhandlers.

While Anderson admits there are complexities to panhandling such as poverty and drug addiction, he insists the city can’t ignore the matter.

“If we kick it upstairs to other levels of government, where the responsibility for the issue is, nothing happens. The problem is on the street here so it leaves it up to the municipality to deal with.”

Anderson says part of the solution may be enforcing existing city bylaws, including prohibiting panhandlers from sitting or laying down or using medians.

A public education component about panhandling may also develop.

“If you give people money, it’s harmful for them. If you are a drug user, you may use the money to buy drugs, or if you are an alcoholic, you may use the money to buy alcohol,” said Anderson.

“If you want to help with the issue, give funds to the Upper Room Mission or the Salvation Army.”

Administration will meet with the Social Planning Council and a sub-committee of Anderson and Coun. Juliette Cunningham prior to presenting a draft strategic plan to council June 13.

This is not the first time panhandling has been on the city’s agenda.

Council had lengthy discussions in late 2015 about aggressive panhandling and particularly in the downtown core.

 

Vernon Morning Star