Anti-panhandling efforts pay off
Friday, July 05, 2013
Times & Transcript
By: Tess Allen
Topics: Miscellaneous, Somewhat Positive
DMCI, local businesses say major strides have been made in controlling panhandling on downtown streets
Recent efforts to curb the city's downtown panhandling problems are proving effective, according to officials with Downtown MonctonCentre-ville Inc. and local business owners.
Anne Poirier Basque, executive director of DMCI, says the number of panhandlers roaming the downtown core, especially those with a more aggressive approach, seems to have taken a dive since officials began ramping up efforts to address the problem.
'I think that our efforts have certainly had an impact. The reason we started our campaign on panhandling was because there was so much aggressive panhandling and we wanted to let the public know that if they want to give, they should give to the outreach organizations. There seems to be more awareness now and much less aggressive panhandling,' says Poirier Basque.
'We had a huge problem early on in the spring with panhandlers following people around until they gave. This was why we wanted to let people know that if they continue giving, they're just going to perpetuate the problem. I have certainly noticed a difference, since if panhandlers are around, they're quieter and not in your face.' Along with educating Monctonians on the importance of donating to local organizations instead of individuals, DMCI has undertaken a number of other initiatives which appear to be having an impact on the panhandling problem downtown.
'The other thing we've done is try to remove some of the bollards, places where people can hang around. We're hoping things like the revitalization of Oak Lane will also help deter that,' says Poirier Basque.
Poirier Basque added that while it is difficult to completely eradicate the problem since panhandling is 'part of a growing city,' she believes her message, and that of a number of the region's outreach programs, is getting across.
'All those organizations (like YMCA Reconnect, Moncton Youth Quest and the United Way, etc.) are helping out and we definitely feel it's having a good, positive impact.' She believes this message has been growing louder and clearer due in great part to the ongoing presence of soon-to-be grads of the policing and corrections program at Oulton College, who act as bylaw enforcement officers for the City ofMoncton as well as the eyes and ears of the RCMP in the downtown.
Every summer the cadets patrol the downtown area. One of their main objectives is to assist in controlling vagrancy and loitering along Main Street.
'The cadets have really made a difference. They patrol the business-improvement area and they can ticket panhandlers or try to get them to move on. They also try to make a connection with them and really talk and find out how they are,' says Poirier Basque.
But Poirier Basque adds that the cadets' primary purpose is not to fine panhandlers, but to try and direct them to services where they can receive the help they need.
'(Ticketing) is not our intent, since clearly if they're panhandling they're not going to have enough money to pay for their fines. So what we like to do is get the agencies that do outreach to be out there and help them. They will talk to panhandlers and see if they need lodging, clothing or food,' she says, adding that such organizations are 'really the front line.' 'The cadets have (cards with a list of all organizations and contact numbers) with them, so they can also help guide them toward these organizations.' This is where agencies likeMoncton's United Way come in, who say that Moncton's panhandling problem seems to be becoming increasingly controlled.
Micha Fardy, director of community development with United Way, says she agrees with Poirier Basque's assessment.
'There seem to be less folks panhandling and making requests at the street level,' Fardy says, 'largely due to the many (community outreach) programs that do exist.
'There are many organizations positioned in the downtown area that are continually working better and better together. Referrals are smoother and people are more aware of different services available.' Tim O'Dell, operations manager of the Tim Hortons on Main Street, has certainly noticed a difference.
'We are noticing a decrease (in the number of panhandlers),' says O'Dell, who gives much of the credit in curbing the issue to the Oulton cadets.
'I think the cadets' presence and their influence on people has certainly helped, there's no question. It's hard as business owners to deal with some of these things and it's nice to have that presence there.'