KELOWNA – They’re often standing on medians at busy intersections holding up signs and asking for money from motorists and the City of Kelowna says there has been an increase in the number of roadside panhandlers.
“I had asked one of them if they wanted to help out on my farm and offered him $10 an hour and he said that he makes more money doing this than I could pay him and I just don’t think that’s right,” says Winfield resident Trevor Elliott.
Elliott is so annoyed with the practice that he filed complaints with the RCMP and bylaws. Despite having sympathy for their plight of panhandlers, Elliott wishes motorists would refrain from giving them money.
“There are a lot of really good citizens in Kelowna that are kind-hearted and I’ve seen them hand money but they’re actually creating a bigger problem because the more you give, the more that come,” says Elliott.
While some motorists Global News spoke to believe desperate times call for desperate measures, others are tired of pulling up to a red light and being approached by a panhandler, citing safety concerns for both themselves and for the panhandler.
Kelowna RCMP along with the city are planning to step up enforcement.
“You’ll see officers and bylaw officers working together at the intersections and enforcing these bylaws and the motor vehicle act regulations jointly, so you’ll see them in marked police vehicles and out on foot,” says Kelowna RCMP Cst. Jesse O’Donaghey.
O’Donaghey says the BC Motor Vehicle Act prohibits soliciting vehicles roadside, as well as soliciting in an aggressive manner, which carries a minimum fine amount of $109. The Safe Streets Act prohibits soliciting a person in a vehicle, which carries a fine of $86.
As part of the enforcement campaign, the city and RCMP will be asking motorists not to give money to people soliciting roadside.
“We ask motorists to consider giving to other causes such as social service agencies here in the community that work to support those panhandlers,” says O’Donaghey.
While some panhandlers acknowledge the risk to their safety, the practice continues to be a popular way to increase their income.