The mayor of the city of Burlington, Marianne Meed Ward, has proposed the idea of ticketing drivers who give money to roadside panhandlers. She says it constitutes as distracted driving, and it is giving them the incentive to keep doing what they do. Burlington Ontario drivers are going to be the ones targeted for fines because panhandlers wouldn't pay the tickets anyway, says councillor Rory Nisan.
“It’s a bit of a carrot and a stick, and it’s not being applied to people who are asking for the money, because after all we know they are very unlikely to even pay the ticket. So, it’s not the kind of deterrent we need. I’d rather have a deterrent for the donors,” said Nisan.
The fact that panhandlers aren't too concerned or affected by fines is the reason that this issue has been a hard one to curb in the past. There are currently no laws against roadside panhandling in Burlington, as long as they are not on the road itself, the Toronto Star reports.
Marianne Meed Ward's website says that Halton Regional Police Community Mobilization Bureau has reached out to certain known panhandlers and offered them services including emergency shelter and food banks information as well as other resources to help them.
"To date, very few of these contacted individuals have expressed an interest in obtaining offered services," says the page. "A large number of the panhandlers also admitted they commute to Burlington from other areas due to the generosity of the citizens of Burlington."
In a statement on the same page, the mayor of Burlington also noted that "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."
The mayor notes that if people really want to help the homeless community, they should donate to a local food bank or shelter. This would help more people than a single donation ever could because it would be going to places where these people can get professional help and resources. A single donation is simply a bandaid solution.
"Donating to someone on the street is not safe and not good fundraising," says the page.
Narcity has reached out to Mayor Ward and Councillor Rory Nisan for more details about the proposal. We will update the story once we hear back.