Volume 93, Issue 38

Friday, November 5, 1999


Editorial Board 1999-2000

A handle on panhandling

Editorial cartoon

A handle on panhandling

Panhandling – it's just not for the aggressive anymore.

Recently, the City of Toronto introduced a by-law to help clean up a problem affecting their city streets. Squeegee kids have been outlawed altogether and the next legislative move, called the Safe Streets Act, could see an overall crack down on aggressive panhandling. This new policy would give police the right to either arrest and/or fine panhandlers who aggressively ask for money.

There are fears that with this new province-wide legislative pressure against aggressive panhandlers, they will be muscled out of the big cities and travel to unsuspecting surrounding areas such as Kingston, Ottawa and London.

Is a province-wide philosophy the right approach to dealing with a situation which is not even prevalent in London? In a word, yes.

This city has placed the revitalization of the downtown at the head of their agenda. What better way to promote this action than to stop a potential problem before it starts? The problem of panhandling is only in its infant stage when compared to the situation in Toronto. If anything, London should be learning by example.

No one will be a victim if this legislation is implemented. Public policy is not saying the homeless will be unable to panhandle anymore. What is being said, is there will be zero tolerance towards any examples of aggression. Hostile begging, which amounts to threatening behaviour, has no place in any downtown area.

In order for economic prosperity to return to the core again, citizens must know they are entering a safe environment. If this environment includes police regulating panhandling downtown, then this policy could only further London's cause.

The end result will be higher pedestrian traffic, resulting in more revenue for businesses in the downtown area. In turn, this means more money, in the form of municipal tax and city rent, at the disposal of the public sector.

With more money, social spending on programs for the homeless and those people currently on the streets can increase. In the end, the implementation of these laws can only help stop the problem before it starts and the economic results will come full circle.

Many of us have never been exposed to panhandling in any form. For those who have, it is a gut-wrenching experience that can range in emotion from feelings of guilt and sadness to utter disgust and fear. The fact of the matter is, this legislation has the potential to stop a problem before it begins.

Panhandling is legal. Aggressive panhandling should not be. This legislation does not take away a panhandler's right to be on a certain stretch of sidewalk, or to ask freely for donations. It only ensures citizens of all kinds can visit their city's centre, without threat or abuse.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999