A city in southern British Columbia is the latest to tackle the issue of panhandling by making it illegal for drivers to give money to people asking for assistance on medians and intersections.
Doing so in Kelowna now brings a $250 fine, according to a story Wednesday on theprovince.com, as the city attempted to discourage a form of begging it felt was unsafe and intimidating.
"That's not a safe situation," Kelowna councilman Luke Stack told The Province, "and I know it makes people uncomfortable."
The new law also makes it a ticketable offense for panhandlers to follow people after they have refused money or to ask for money within five meters of someone sitting in an outdoor patio.
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In addition, Kelowna made it illegal for people to give away empty bottles or cans that can be redeemed for cash within 500 meters of a recycling depot, again bringing a $250 fine for offenders. Kelowna hopes people will instead return recyclables themselves and contribute to organizations to that help the homeless, Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said.
“What we’re doing (by donating bottles) is we’re enabling the status quo,” Basran told the Province. “I would rather people donate to a social agency that is actually helping people.”
Kelowna is not the first city in the region to attempt to deal with the issue of panhandling. In November, the Gig Harbor City Council passed a new ordinance making it unlawful for drivers to interact with pedestrians or exchange money or goods on certain roadways.
In July, the Cheyenne (Wyoming) Police Department advised residents to stop giving money to panhandlers and instead give to charities with a viral social media post.
Social media response to the new Kelowna law has been mixed, with some posts showing support and others vehemently opposed.
The panhandling laws are not the only new legislation in Kelowna gaining attention, as Kelowna made changes to its rules on busking, or performing music for voluntary donations on the street. According to a story Wednesday on kelownacapnews.com, the city council plans to review the entire busker program after public criticism on social media about the protential changes, including from councilman Ryan Donn, who called the changes "ridiculous."
The changes include a requirement that all buskers have a permit if they plan to ask for money, kelownacapnews.com reported, and those permits are only available after an audition with Festivals Kelowna. Buskers also would be limited to specific locations downtown, but can play anywhere else in the city, though they will be subject to noise complaints.