UPDATE: Maple Ridge passes bylaw on panhandling

Anmol Aujla / November 12, 2019

If the bylaw is approved, panhandlers will be banned from going near certain buildings like daycares and banks.
(Chris Yarzab / Flickr)

Disobeying these by-laws will result in a fine of up to $100. Yousef states that “the point is not to fine or penalize the people but to mitigate the behaviour before it even happens.”

City council met last night to give their final approval to the “Safe Streets Bylaw” which will affect how panhandling is regulated in Maple Ridge. The initial vote for the bylaw passed by a 6-1 margin in October. Council member Ahmed Yousef, who is in favour of the bylaw, states that the underlining reason for the proposed change is to keep the city safe and help the community enjoy going downtown in a comfortable manner.

The “Safer Streets Bylaw” includes the following restrictions:

Rule 1

Nobody can ask for money while blocking the way of pedestrians

Rule 2

Nobody can ask for money after being denied

Rule 3

Nobody is allowed to ask for money within 10 meters of a bank, ATM, bus stop, liquor store or cannabis outlet

Rule 4

Asking for money is banned after sunset

Homeless activist suggest alternative solutions for panhandling

However, Judy Graves, a well-known advocate for the homeless community, explains that the plan to fine the rule breakers is close to useless.

“It’s absurd, what they do is they wait till a person has accumulated a great deal of fines and then they put them in jail, which is just a further cost for a tax payer. It’s much cheaper to house someone and feed them than it is to put them in jail; jail is really the most expensive housing solution that we have.” – Judy Graves, Homeless Advocate

Graves explains that many people believe that homeless people take donations and use them to purchase drugs when in reality most of them use the money to feed and hydrate themselves.

According to the 2018 Report on Homeless Counts in BC, 8% of homeless people get their income from panhandling. Graves emphasizes that the panhandling is probably the best alternative for income.

“If there is no other way for them to get money, they will either panhandle which is probably the best solution, or they will have to break into cars or houses to get what they need.” – Judy Graves, Homeless Advocate

Graves shares that there are alternative solutions to limiting panhandling, highlighting the importance of housing. Despite the disapproval from advocates like Graves, the “Safer Streets Bylaw” will be going into full effect as a result of city council’s approval.