VERNON - The City of Vernon has taken a unique approach to tackling aggressive panhandling with the addition of five ‘kindness meters’ in the downtown core.
The bright orange meters were installed in the city’s identified panhandling hotspots, and provide an alternative for people who want to help out members of the community without giving money directly to those who panhandle.
“Vernon residents care about each other and want to help others. However, giving money to panhandlers may not be the best way to help people as it can perpetuate the cycle of panhandling and addiction,” states a release from the city.
All proceeds collected in the meters will be donated to local agencies such as the John Howard Society, Upper Room Mission and the Salvation Army.
In addition to the kindness meters, the city is also rolling out other strategies to reduce aggressive panhandling. That includes signs on medians and roadways where panhandling is a concern. While panhandling is not illegal, panhandling to vehicles is, and is a violation of the B.C. Safe Streets Act and city bylaws. The city and RCMP will be targeting medians and roadways where these activities take place.
Bylaw officers will also be targeting aggressive panhandling, which is a violation of the Safe Streets Act and is considered any manner that is likely to cause a reasonable person to be concerned for their safety and security.
“These include actions such as threatening the person being solicited with physical harm, obstructing the path of the person being solicited, using profane or abusive language, proceeding behind, alongside or ahead of the person, soliciting while intoxicated, or continuing to solicit after a negative response has been given,” states the city.
The city is also creating signage and information pamphlets that discourage people from giving change to panhandlers and promote donating to recognized local charities that offer services to homeless people in the community. Presentations will also be made to various groups within Vernon to provide information about panhandling, the B.C. Safe Streets Act, and tips for how to respond when approached by panhandlers.
Aggressive panhandling should be immediately reported by calling 250-550-3505. For more information on panhandling, click here.
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