Ken Derkach and Frank Johnson have been spending their days panhandling by the entrance to Centenoka Park Mall. A ‘no panhandling’ sign was recently erected on mall property. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Ken Derkach and Frank Johnson have been spending their days panhandling by the entrance to Centenoka Park Mall. A ‘no panhandling’ sign was recently erected on mall property. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm mall posts no-panhandling sign after bylaw pushes homeless out of downtown

Mall manager says sign prompted by customer complaints

A sign stands bolted into the concrete near the place where two men regularly panhandle at the entrance to Centenoka Park Mall.

It states: “No Panhandling, Loitering, Soliciting, Use of Narcotics, Consumption of Alcohol. This is Private Property.”

Ken Derkach used to be something of a fixture on Alexander Street in downtown Salmon Arm. He could be seen sitting on the sidewalk near the RBC Financial Group, a small sign beside him stating: “Due to health unable to work. Anything will help. Thanks and God Bless.”

He moved in response to the city’s 2019 street solicitation bylaw which prohibits panhandling within 15 metres of a number of sites including the 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.

Derkach could be seen near the downtown Askew’s for a while but later moved to the sidewalk next to the roadway into the mall. He joined up with Frank Johnson, another homeless man.

Read more: New bylaw – No panhandling allowed within 15 metres of some businesses

Read more: Street life taking its toll

Read more: More housing, services needed

They said Wednesday that the sign appeared the week before. 

“They thought it would hurt us and get us out of here,” Derkach remarked. “Most of the people who come up to us think it’s B.S.”

As the sidewalk is city property, the sign doesn’t apply to where the men are now sitting.

Derkach thinks the sign picks on panhandlers. “But we do no harm. We don’t ask for anything. People bring us food, money, gift cards… We very much appreciate the people of Salmon Arm.”

Derkach added that after two years without a permanent roof over his head – and 10 years really without a home, he is finally moving into a new place this week.

Maurice Roy, the city’s manager of permits and licensing, says the guys on the sidewalk at the mall entrance are OK provided they are not situated within 15 metres of the bus stop or liquor store, and they do not approach vehicles stopped at the stop sign.

Brittney Lewis, manager at Centenoka Park Mall, said putting up the sign was prompted by complaints.

“They’ve been asked to leave plenty of times and they just keep begging for money, and then they go over to the alcohol store and get their booze and then get drunk and then go back to that corner. So they’re bothering customers and it’s private property so we’re able to put that sign up.”

Read more: Homeless man thinks Salmon Arm bylaw should target only aggressive panhandlers

Read more: Fines of $50 added to Salmon Arm’s panhandling bylaw to be used as last resort

Asked how the bothering manifests itself, she explains.

“When cars stop to just look for traffic before leaving our parking lot, they ask for money and some people are very bothered by it. I’ve had quite a lot of complaints.

“He’s not asking for money because of what his sign says; he’s an alcoholic and I know he’s made decisions in life to get where he has. He’s making a killing from people and other people are very bothered by it.”

The sign sitting between the two men states: “Due to health unable to work. Brain injury and army vet and homeless. Anything helps. Thank you and God bless.”

“We’ve asked him to leave nicely,” Lewis emphasizes. “We’re not mean to him at all but we are allowed to put up the signs because it is private property – we have them all over our property.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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