Recently municipalities across British Columbia have been implementing ways to combat panhandling.
Maple Ridge passed a Safer Streets Bylaw, imposing a fine of $100 on what they called aggressive panhandling, or those asking for money near liquor stores, banks, bus stops, daycares, and various other identified areas.
In 2018, Penticton voted in favour of fining people for sitting on certain streets in their downtown core. Quesnel and Salmon Arm also approved fines for offenses including sitting in certain areas, panhandling or causing a disturbance.
Locally, Coun. Mike Bhangu has been extremely vocal about the opioid problem, and its correlation to homelessness and panhandling in the City.
Bhangu joined Q101 to discuss the possibility of bringing forward a similar motion in Merritt.
“A safer streets bylaw may not be the solution. The folks that are panhandling are in an at-risk situation and ticketing may not curb the undesirable behavior,” began Bhangu. “These folks are out there because they have an issue and require healing but at the same time, the citizens should be protected from any kind of aggressive behavior. Making the situation worse on the individual that’s already at risk; I don’t know if that’s the right move.”
The Councillor continued to speak about what he feels is the most important next step.
“If we don’t focus on the healing aspect the problem is going to continue to grow. If we don’t try to heal, the problem will only get worse,” reiterated Bhangu.
“What excites me about this option is we’re looking at it, community members are looking for solutions and bringing them forward, and that’s exciting. Through that type of activity, I strongly feel we will figure this out. I think now is the time, we need to do something now before it gets out of control. In the past, I think we’ve overlooked the problems. I don’t think we can look the other way anymore,” concluded Bhangu.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt