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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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, “I think in hindsight I would say it was the right thing to do.”