Getting Rid of Panhandlers

Crime in Ottawa

No doubt if you live here in the nation’s capital of Ottawa, you have seen them on the main thoroughfares throughout the city. They walk up and down the medians and when the light turns red, they step out onto the roadway and walk from car to car with their Tim Horton’s cup or some other container begging for money. I know that many of the people who are out on the streets begging for money have no viable source of income and must do whatever they can to get food and shelter, but stepping out into traffic is probably not the safest way to earn a buck. There’s also the very real probability that many of these people begging for money are doing so to fuel their drug habits. I’ve seen more than one of these people laying out behind a local church tweaking to their latest hit of whatever their drug of choice is. I know there are many who feel sorry for these individuals and are offended by someone like myself who criticize what the panhandlers are doing, but there has to be better alternatives to walking through traffic to get money. If someone has a drug habit that’s consuming their life, maybe we should be looking at ways to get them treatment and become functioning members of society than tossing them change everyday to support their addiction. There are some statistics available when it comes to those who support themselves through panhandling and for some, it can be extremely lucrative and earn them a surprising amount of money.

It’s Illegal

Believe it or not, panhandling is illegal in the City of Ottawa and for that matter, in most other cities. In the province of Ontario, the panhandling laws are covered under the Ontario Safe Streets Act. But I have yet to see one of the panhandlers who are begging many hours a day, every day of the week, get told by police to stop doing what they are doing. It’s not that unusual to see a police car in the lineup of traffic and the police officers get asked as well if they could spare some money to help buy a sandwich or a drink. In many cases, instead of telling them to get off the street and stop panhandling, they give the person a smoke or a bottle of water. That seems like quite the incentive to get these people off the streets and out of traffic where they can easily be run over and killed, especially during rush hour when all the most frustrated drivers are out and ready to mow anyone down to save 30 seconds on their commute.

Time Better Spent

Panhandler sitting on the sidewalk with his hat out for change
Panhandler with his hat out for change

Here’s what I have the most difficulty understanding. Some of these panhandlers will be out and hitting drivers up for money at 7 o’clock in the morning and they are often still there at 7 o’clock in the evening and sometimes they are still there at 10 o’clock at night. How can you be spending 12 hours or more per day in the heat or cold, or many times, even worse weather and not think that there could be something better and more financially rewarding than begging for change? I’ve heard of some people who earn 6 figure incomes begging on the streets, but I would have to conclude that the success rate is extremely low, or everyone would be begging for money. If these people put in 12 hours per day at a retail job or something, I would think that they would earn much more money and wouldn’t be exposed to raging heat and humidity in the summer or be freezing their nuts off in the winter. And while they are out begging for change, they are often putting themselves or others in danger of being struck by a vehicle or drivers getting into accidents trying to avoid them.

Better Enforcement

Our police services need to do a better job enforcing the laws of our city and this includes the laws related to panhandling. And no doubt this is the same issue that applies to cities other than Ottawa. Enforcing such laws may be difficult and getting someone who’s homeless and may have no identification to show up to court facing a charge will be difficult but allowing panhandlers to continue and put themselves and others at risk with their disregard of the law isn’t working either. As for myself, I am getting fed up with having my window knocked on everyday when I pass through an intersection close to where I live. My wife is terrified when she’s approached by panhandlers as many of them don’t look very friendly and in some cases, they can be quite aggressive when it comes to getting the amount of money they need for whatever it is they are determined to buy. We just had an election to vote in our municipal leaders, but I didn’t hear anything regarding panhandlers and what our mayor and councillors intend to do about this ever-growing problem. Perhaps, the issue of panhandling should be a topic of discussion during our next municipal election.

What do you think about the issue of panhandling in Ottawa or the town or city you live in. Is this something you condone, or would you like to see it enforced by our police forces in accordance to our city laws and bylaws? I would like to see the panhandlers off the streets and for myself, it can’t happen soon enough.



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