There seems to be a misunderstanding regarding the panhandling regulation bylaw. Some pro-panhandling advocates, some of whom are paid social workers and therefore not unbiased in their opinions, appear to be under the impression the passing and enforcement of a bylaw regulating when, where, how and for how long a street person may beg on Baker St. eliminates the possibility the city will take further action to help street people overcome poverty, addictions, joblessness and other conditions that have led them to their need to beg money from strangers.
In fact, the solution here does not need to be either/or. The solution can be both a bylaw regulation and programs to help solve the underlying issues.
I am perfectly willing for my taxes to pay for a street outreach worker, a day labour centre, a single point registry where street people can apply for help and all the other wonderful suggestions brought forward by the Nelson Committee on Homelessness. My taxes alone, however, will not be enough. We also need the business taxes provided by the business owners of Baker St. to make any of these programs work. If they are driven out of business because regular customers and tourists avoid Baker St., everyone suffers. Their employees lose their jobs and the situation of poverty and homelessness in Nelson would deteriorate even further, to the point that the city cannot afford to help those in need.
Anyone who thinks tourists have not noticed the way Baker St. has already started to go downhill should read these comments on the TripAdvisor website. Here are some examples.
“The first evening strolling Baker St. was a bit of a disappointment with the number of street people distracting from the character of the street. The second day was much nicer as you weren’t accosted for handouts as often and could enjoy the history along the street.” – Visited May 2016
“Very little parking. Crowded sidewalks. Panhandlers and beggars on every corner. Just ten years ago it was a relaxing stroll with my children. Now it is as busy as any large city street and just as overpriced. ” – Visited September 2015
“The only downside were several groups of mostly younger people panhandling, though that was mostly after shops closed and we were walking to a restaurant for dinner. ” – Visited November 2014
These visitors have almost certainly told their friends not to visit Nelson and there were, no doubt, many other tourists who felt the same but did not post their negative experience online.
In summary, there is no reason why we cannot have both social programs to help panhandlers and also a bylaw regulating panhandling. In fact, both approaches are equally valid and should both be instituted as soon as possible.
Tira Evans, Nelson