OUR VIEW PENINSULA: A hand up, not the boot

Rumblings behind the scenes about how to handle Sidney’s recent influx of panhandlers seem somewhat heartless

Rumblings behind the scenes about how to handle Sidney’s recent influx of panhandlers seem somewhat heartless.

This spring, a few panhandlers have turned up on Beacon Avenue. These are not the usual buskers who perform for their meals. They are what might be considered homeless individuals who are looking for a handout or perhaps even a hand up.

Instead, it appears local leaders are looking for ways to force them to move on.

Staff Sergeant Dennis O’Gorman recently reported that the Town of Sidney is exploring ways — including bylaws — to address the matter. What that might be is anyone’s guess but judging by some of the recent letters to the editor on the issue, a lot of people want the panhandlers gone.

To where, is a hard question to answer.

O’Gorman says some of those individuals choose to be on the street. Others have drug or mental health issues. He said working with them and the rest of the community is complicated and must be done in a humane way.

A bylaw — possibly to restrict their comings and goings — doesn’t seem very humane. And it would put the police into a position they should not be in — a situation better left to social welfare organizations.

O’Gorman says a generous population contributes to keeping the panhandlers around. Does that have to be a bad thing?

If enough people of that generous nature put their minds together, perhaps they could find solutions that give people an out from life on the street — not just the boot from one community to another.

Reasons behind why some people panhandle on the streets of downtown Sidney and elsewhere can be complex.

A knee-jerk reaction to situations that make us uncomfortable — and pushing them out of the community — is perhaps not the type of generosity the Saanich Peninsula wants to be known for.

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