Panhandling in Vernon

Is panhandling a problem in Vernon?

Panhandling is an issue that many communities face across B.C. and Canada.


Panhandling is an issue that many communities face across B.C. and Canada. Complex social issues like panhandling require coordinated community responses that address root causes. Not all panhandlers are homeless. Many, however, share the same issues as people who are homeless: addictions, mental health issues, disabilities, poverty, low levels of education and unemployment. Panhandling is not illegal and deciding whether to give or not is a personal decision. However, giving change directly to panhandlers can lead to more, not fewer, problems.

Many Vernon businesses and residents are concerned about panhandlers interfering with business or making areas where panhandlers gather uninviting to businesses or residents. The City of Vernon is providing information for individuals and businesses so that responses to panhandlers is coordinated and effective.

Is panhandling illegal?

No, panhandling is legal. However, it is illegal to violate the Safe Streets Act and the Trespass Act to panhandle. This includes aggressive panhandling or panhandling from medians or roadways.

What is not allowed under the Safe Streets Act?

The legislation states that no person shall:

•             Solicit in an aggressive manner

•             Solicit near a bank machine, pay phone, public transit stop, vehicle or in a parking lot

•             Solicit a person in a vehicle on a roadway

What are examples of aggressive panhandling?

Aggressive panhandling is a manner that is likely to cause a reasonable person to be concerned for their safety and security. Examples include:

•             Threatening the person solicited with physical harm

•             Obstructing the path of the person being solicited

•             Using profane or abusive language

•             Proceeding behind, alongside or ahead of the person

•             Soliciting while intoxicated

Why shouldn’t I give change to panhandlers?

•             Cash given to panhandlers may frequently be used to buy drugs or alcohol, and perpetuates the cycle of panhandling and addiction.

•             For some, panhandling is a profession and at times, a lucrative one.

•             It encourages panhandling, which can increase feelings that the area is unsafe.

It is important to note that street vendors, outdoor performers and other people providing a legitimate service with a valid permit are not panhandlers.

Tips when approached by a panhandler

•             Briefly acknowledge them with a glance or a nod

•             If asked for money, simply say, “Sorry”

•             Move purposefully on

•             Do not engage them or allow yourself to be engaged

•             Do not fumble for change and pretend to have none or make excuses

•             Donate to City of Vernon Kindness Meters located throughout the city

What is the City doing to help?

The City’s Good Neighbour Bylaw #4980 contains similar regulations to those in the Safe Streets Act and mirrors this Provincial legislation. This allows either the RCMP or a Bylaw Officer to assist in dealing with aggressive or obstructive panhandling. The City also provides information to businesses and residents about strategies for interacting with panhandlers.

If you see or experience aggressive behaviour, do not ignore it. Call 250-550-3505 to report offences.

Help agencies that help the homeless.

Panhandlers need help, not handouts. 100% of the money collected in City of Vernon Kindness Meter donation boxes pay for agencies that provide support to people in our community who need aid.