ROTHENBURGER: Maybe fines for panhandling actually work

Signs on Columbia Street warn against panhandling in traffic. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE LATEST ATTEMPT to do something about panhandling comes in Salmon Arm, where the City council has approved a $50 fine.

Controlling the unwanted aspects of homelessness is not easy, and politically risky.

You may remember when Vernon lawmakers decided, in their wisdom, to ban shopping carts from public property in hopes it would keep homeless people from — as one business person put it — “rambling down the streets” with them.

Fortunately, Vernon dropped the idea. Then, of course, there was the Kamloops RCMP’s own campaign to confiscate shopping carts from the homeless. The uproar resulted in a plan to design and build shopping carts especially for the homeless, though I don’t see any results of that on Kamloops streets.

As for panhandling, I don’t see it as a problem in Kamloops right now. Sure, everyone gets asked for “spare change” once in a while.

The answer is easy — “sorry, I don’t have any,” which is true because who carries change in their pockets anymore?

Maybe the cashless society is part of the reason this summer hasn’t seen an explosion of panhandling here. Or maybe the Kamloops approach is working.

Like several other cities, Kamloops restricts panhandling in locations like bank machines. Like Penticton, it prohibits people from sitting or lying on sidewalks (which doesn’t seem to be enforced). And, Kamloops has a $100 fine on the books.

Fines are always touted as a “last resort” and I believe that’s true.

The argument that if homeless panhandlers had money for a fine they wouldn’t be panhandling is valid.

However, any bylaw has to be backed up with penalties. Discretionary enforcement is the key to deterrence.

If it’s working in Kamloops and other cities, maybe it will work in Salmon Arm, too.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (7728 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on ROTHENBURGER: Maybe fines for panhandling actually work

  1. Sean makes a good point, our people should not be in a position to be asking for money in the streets in the first place especially in country like Canada. As long as people are divided and not all on the same page no solution will ever work. They panhandle because it works as Sean just pointed out. Unless you start fining the people who give out handouts as well the problem will never go away and I can not see them fining people who give handouts as that is against a basic human right.

  2. How is it working exactly as was the problem solved of why they are panhandling in the first place? No, so now they are pushed somewhere else and currently on the North Shore at the Tranquille, 8th Street and Fortune intersection. All that happened was the issue got moved around to another location and if you push them out of this area they will find another.

  3. Sean McGuinness // July 16, 2019 at 7:20 AM // Reply

    I give money to panhandlers and homeless people. I’m happy to it and they are grateful when you are generous. As far as I’m concerned, it’s money well spent. What bothers me more is the society we live in where people are allowed to slip through the cracks.
    The climbers on Everest told about stepping over dead bodies. Well, I practically did that on Denman street in Vancouver, not knowing if they were dead or alive.

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