The City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan have both moved to put up signs in the Duncan highway corridor to try to discourage panhandlers.
We think these are a good and cost-effective idea.
The signs cost only a few hundred dollars to put up, and if our community follows the pattern of others that have already tried putting up such signs, we’re told that these could be anywhere from “somewhat” to “very” effective in deterring panhandling at some of our busiest intersections.
It’s not that we, or the municipality, lack compassion for people who are out begging for money. It’s that panhandlers are putting themselves at risk on busy roads, and putting others at risk as well, as they may slow or impede traffic.
If you’ve driven through Duncan, you’re probably familiar with the spots where the signs have been put up, as panhandlers have stationed themselves there, cap in hand, for years — Trunk Road and the Trans Canada Highway, Coronation Avenue and the TCH, Drinkwater Road and the TCH, and Cowichan Way and Trunk Road.
Sitting on a median at these locations is not a safe thing to do, and if you get people stopping unexpectedly in traffic for these folks it’s a real traffic hazard.
There’s also a very real question of image. We want to put our best foot forward to attract tourists and others to stop at our businesses in Cowichan, we want people to want to move here. Panhandlers don’t project an image of a desirable place to live or stop. Some even find them intimidating (though they don’t need to). This is not unimportant, as everyone in our communities needs to make a living.
The signs point out that panhandling is actually illegal on roadways and is unsafe, and suggests people give to agencies that help those who are homeless or hard-up instead. We fully support that last as well. There are many very good organizations that provide, food, clothing, and other necessities to those who are struggling. By donating to them, you can help more than one person at a time.