Letter: Better ways for Downtown Salmon Arm businesses to address poverty

Prohibiting sitting or lying down both measures designed to make poverty invisible and criminal

The newly-passed bylaw on panhandling in Salmon Arm is a disgrace to the city and local businesses.

The bylaw addresses claims that panhandlers are a “threat” to downtown businesses by hiding and criminalizing poverty. The problem of poverty and begging could instead be addressed creatively and supportively. Downtown businesses in much larger cities use a number of successful tactics (apart from trying to address the root causes of poverty). People who have no shelter can sleep in doorways – if the business is supportive, the person will keep it clean and vacate it during business hours. Businesses can pay people for odd jobs, replacing the need to beg. Window-washing, garbage and recycling sorting and removal, sidewalk sweeping, carrying groceries for customers are all options. Alternatively, businesses can keep a tip jar for folks, and give it to their sponsored person daily.

Read more: New bylaw: No panhandling allowed within 15 metres of some businesses

Read more: City’s proposed panhandling bylaw returns for public hearing

Read more: Word on the street: What do you think of the city’s panhandling bylaw?

And here’s an idea for a more appropriate bylaw: any business that objects to visible poverty should be fined or made to donate monthly to the food bank, women’s transition house and shelters.

Councillors’ public statements reveal a total lack of caring. Just because other cities are doing it doesn’t mean we have to stoop to their level. Louise Richmond Wallace is referenced as saying that “council doesn’t want to criminalize poverty.” The bylaw you just passed directly contradicts your statement. Putting severe limits on locations (15 metres is further from businesses than the smoking ban!) and prohibiting sitting or lying down are both measures designed to make poverty both invisible and criminal.

I beg you (whoops, don’t fine me!), revoke this disgusting, heartless and counterproductive bylaw before Salmon Arm becomes a byword for cruelty. It’s not how we think of this city, we trust that the better parts of local business and government will prevail.

Rebecca Kneen,

Left Fields/Crannóg Ales,

Sorrento

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