Charlottetown city council looks to crack down on panhandlers

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 14, 2016

Coun. Jason Coady, chairman of Charlottetown's protective and emergency services committee, speaks to reporters following city council's meeting Monday night. Coady introduced a notice of motion to amend the nuisance bylaw. The city is looking to limit where panhandlers can solicit money on streets in the downtown core.

©Conor McCarthy/The Guardian

Charlottetown city council wants to crack down on panhandling in the downtown core.

Coun. Jason Coady, chairman of protective and emergency services, introduced a notion of motion to amend the nuisance bylaw at its regular public monthly meeting Monday night.

"The committee is looking to beef up the nuisance bylaw in terms of trying to eliminate or diminish panhandling on the streets of Charlottetown,'' Coady told the media following the meeting.

"There have been numerous complaints from residents and tourists alike, and we're just looking to try and give the current bylaw some teeth so that when we go to enforce these bylaws we have something to go by that will help curb this activity.''

When asked for specifics, Coady said amendments to the current nuisance bylaw would target things like "aggressive solicitation'' and ban panhandling around ATMs and bus stops where people tend to congregate.

The current bylaw doesn't give the city much leverage. However, no bylaw can eliminate the activity since people are free, by law, to ask for money.

"It's no different than going door-to-door canvassing. It's up to you as an individual if you want to give money to this individual.''

There was some immediate reaction on Twitter.

"It's about time,'' said Sunshinegirl30. "From Water Street to Queen Street, I was bugged eight different times from them.''

A resident The Guardian talked to outside council chambers echoed the same sentiments, saying it's impossible to walk on Queen, Grafton and Kent streets without being stopped repeatedly.

Deputy Mayor Mike Duffy says it's getting out of hand.

"I'm seeing every block or two (has) maybe three of these setups on Kent Street, Queen Street and Grafton Street,'' said Duffy, adding that merchants are complaining, too.

"This is not adding to the décor or the atmosphere downtown, and we don't see that there is any need for it.''

The deputy mayor said giving panhandlers money doesn't do them any favours. The problem has to be taken care of before things get to that point. Duffy noted their needs can be fulfilled from various safety net organizations.

A beefed-up bylaw could be presented to council for first and second reading by the next regular public meeting, April 11.

"My heart goes out to them. It's tough. I wouldn't want to see anybody in that situation,'' Coady said. "With the weather we are having, it was indicated that we are seeing some panhandlers in the street, so we're looking to get this into place as soon as possible.''

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart