April 15, 2010- Edmonton wants task force to deal with panhandlers

Edmonton wants task force to deal with panhandlers

The city proposes to establish an integrated team of police officers, business associations, and social service agencies to curb the panhandling problem in Edmonton, according to a report.
The team will be responsible for increasing the presence of outreach workers from the Boyle Street Community Services and working to gain the trust of panhandlers.
They will be tasked with developing and delivering public education campaign materials to educate panhandlers about services to help them deal with mental health and addictions and put them in touch with housing and employment resources.
The public education campaign will also educate the public to help them better understand the barriers faced by those who panhandle and the root causes.
Currently there are services and programs provided to help panhandlers, but they are not well-integrated and do not receive enough support, the report states.
Coun. Ben Henderson, whose ward encompasses the areas that see the highest incidents of aggressive panhandling, said he's happy that the issue is coming up for discussion in next week's council committee meeting.
"You can't just come up with a bylaw, that won't get anywhere," Henderson said. "You need to get down to root causes and link together all this work to make a real difference rather than just push the issue around or punish the panhandlers."
According to statistics from the Edmonton Police Service, in 2009 there were 85 incidents of panhandling in downtown and 36 in the southwest including the Strathcona area. Downtown's Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue were the top areas for aggressive panhandling followed by West Edmonton Mall and the Clareview LRT station. The police have identified 30 to 40 aggressive panhandlers citywide.
The city hopes to establish the integrated team by May 31, and to implement the public education campaign by June 15.
In addition, the city will continue with long-term plans to curb panhandling including continued efforts by the Homelessness Commission's 10-year plan to end homelessness and expanding "social enterprise approaches" such as the Boyle Street Community Services lawn order business.

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