The City of Burlington put out a media statement in response to some misinformation that was recently printed in some media outlets regarding panhandling in Burlington. I am sharing that statement with you here.
The City of Burlington is not pursing a by-law related to ticketing drivers giving to panhandlers on Burlington streets. On Sept. 10, 2019, a staff report on panhandling went to the Planning & Development Committee for discussion. There is no City staff direction related to targeting and ticketing drivers donating money to panhandlers. There was an amended motion put forward at that meeting that was not approved by Burlington City Council; that motion was to report back to the Planning and Development Committee by the end of 2019 on the possibility of a by-law that would target drivers donating money to panhandlers at City intersections.
The actions that were approved by Burlington City Council include:
- The City of Burlington will continue to work with the Halton Poverty Roundtable (which is part of United Way) as part of their broader communication to residents about poverty.
- Update the City’s website to provide information on how residents can assist those in need, including donating money.
- The City will share ways to help via social media and the City Talk newsletter.
- The City will prepare communication material for ward-specific newsletters with information for residents about this issue.
- The City will continue to work with the Halton Regional Police to monitor panhandling on the streets of Burlington.
Burlington City Council shared their concerns on the well-being of all who need help in Burlington, and was clear through its deliberations that the end goal is to get the most support to those who need it, and that donating to active local charitable organizations is important to ensuring the best results from the community.
- Panhandling in Burlington and the Safety Concerns Around it
- Burlington City Council Passes Recommendations from Sept. 10 Planning and Development Committee Meeting
It is so important for our media to be in this room with us. I want to thank them for being at City Hall and reporting on what happens in Chambers. Some people can’t be here and rely on the media for their reports. The media got it wrong in this case. Although there was a discussion of road safety and a possibility of ticketing drivers as an option to deal with this, that option was voted down. The headline and the article said the city was seeking ticketing. That was wrong.
However, what this did was open a conversation across this country. I was interviewed by news agencies in Vancouver about this. This is specifically about the activity of panhandling happening on and in our streets. This City decided to go ahead with a communications plan. We’re not ticketing drivers and that’s not what came out of Committee either. I remain concerned about the potential safety risks. In photos, you will see individuals go across multiple lanes of traffic to get change and then going back to the safety of the median.
This communication plan is also to spread awareness of where to go for help and supports in our Region and how they can be accessed. What message are we sending to the community if we say, in order to get the help you need, you have to walk into traffic. We have to do better — we must do better and we will.
I mentioned the option of police giving tickets (or preferably a warning) to drivers for careless driving for giving money to panhandlers at busy intersections. This would be a chance to educate drivers that this behaviour puts drivers and pedestrians, including panhandlers, at risk and isn’t the best way to help those in need.
If they can pull drivers over and educate them that what they’re doing isn’t safe, that could also be an opportunity to hand over a pamphlet that shows how the driver can help in better ways.
No one should have to stand in a median and put themselves at risk to get help. As a society, we need to do more.
Poverty is often — but not always — related to issues of mental health. We have a caring community and that is why it is so effective for folks to ask for money.
True that to date, there have been no safety issues, but that is to date. We don’t want to wait for an accident to happen before we do something. I do believe there is a safety issue – that has always been my concern, and we’ve been lucky there hasn’t been an incident.
We really do need to send the message if drivers truly want to help people, $10 donated to an agency can be leveraged into more funds because of their partnerships, to help many more people than that single donation ever could. Donating to someone on the street is not safe and not good fundraising. We need to continue to help the people in need in our community in the best ways possible.