The circles on the map represent a 15-metre radius from the entrance to existing downtown financial institutions, ATMS, outdoor eating areas, theatres, bus stops and liquor and cannabis outlets. These are the areas downtown where panhandling is prohibited. (Google maps)

City review concludes Salmon Arm panhandling bylaw warranted

Council now looking at other steps to meet needs of people who are homeless

Salmon Arm’s panhandling bylaw has done what it was supposed to do, according to city staff, council and the RCMP.

In May of this year, the majority of council adopted a street solicitation bylaw and, in July, an accompanying amendment that includes a fine for panhandling. The bylaw was in response to complaints about the number of people panhandling downtown from some downtown merchants and shoppers.

Mayor Alan Harrison agreed to bring the bylaw back before the end of the year for review.

The street solicitation bylaw prohibits soliciting on a street within 15 metres of an entrance to a bank, credit union or trust company, an automated teller machine, a bus stop or bus shelter, a restaurant with outdoor seating or the entrance to a theatre or art gallery. It also prohibits sitting or lying on a street for the purpose of solicitation, soliciting from the occupant of a motor vehicle and soliciting from a public bench, seating or within a public plaza.

The ticketing amendment enforces a fine of $50 for infractions. When passing it, council emphasized the fines are meant to be a last resort. Coun. Sylvia Lindgren was alone in voting against the panhandling bylaw and the fine.

Read more: Salmon Arm’s panhandling bylaw put on hold

Read more: City council to take second look at controversial panhandling bylaw

Read more: Salmon Arm proceeds with panhandling bylaw

At Monday’s meeting, city staff reported that no municipal tickets have been issued by the city bylaw officer and no complaints have been filed with the bylaw department.

“Staff are very pleased with the co-operation of the street solicitors in adhering to the requirements of the bylaw. We are hopeful that we can expect the same degree of co-operation in years to come,” wrote Maurice Roy, manager of permits and licensing.”

RCMP Staff Sgt. Scott West reported that although officers don’t always create files when they speak to people on patrol, he believes several panhandlers were informed of the bylaw and moved to where it is legal.

“It is our opinion that this bylaw has had the desired effect and was enforced in keeping with local government wishes.”

Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond, chair of the city’s social impact advisory committee, noted that the day the bylaw was passed, council had spoken about how it was only one part of the work to be done.

“There’s no question there are people whose needs aren’t being met in this community.”

She made note of the community integration-specialist hired by the province, who is spending her time having conversations with “the people who are living this experience.”

She said council has heard from downtown merchants that they are committed to reaching out in an appropriate way to help those in need and working on a downtown care strategy.

She added that her committee has recommended the city apply for social planning grants to identify gaps and overlaps in social planning.

“But it would not be fair to let the day pass without saying the work is not complete,” Wallace Richmond remarked, noting that the bylaw is “one very blunt tool in a large and complex toolbox. It behooves me to say this on behalf of the people who work with those who live this experience every day.

Read more: Fines of $50 added to Salmon Arm’s panhandling bylaw to be used as last resort

Read more: Panhandling bylaw – Homeless man thinks it should target only aggressive panhandlers

Read more: Salmon Arm Mall’s no-panhandling sign reported to be result of complaints

Harrison agreed. He said it has allowed merchants to do business and seniors who shop downtown to feel safe while they’re there.

“It is one piece of the box that we needed because we needed guidelines. And I believe that it has served its purpose.”

The provincially funded community integration specialist is one step, he said. Although they’re based in Vernon, they’re spending most of their time in Salmon Arm.

“So that’s a positive.”

He also pointed to the BC Housing project being built and the work of the city’s housing taskforce.

The third step, he said, has been working with the Salvation Army to try to set up a commercial kitchen in order that the Lighthouse emergency shelter could be kept open longer. That has not yet been successful.

Harrison concluded that, with the other actions being taken, although it was a difficult decision to pass the bylaw, “I think in hindsight I would say it was the right thing to do.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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