Aggressive panhandlers scare off customers, business owners say

Edmonton businesses north of downtown say a spike in aggressive panhandling is proving bad for business.

City council promises to help affected areas in Kingsway, Chinatown, Beverly

Business owners in Kingsway, Beverly and Chinatown say aggressive panhandlers are scaring off customers. (CBC)

Edmonton businesses north of downtown say a spike in aggressive panhandling is bad for business.

"It's become more aggressive," says Ellie Sasseville, executive director of the Kingsway Business Zone.

"They used to stay out of the way of business. Now we're finding they're more aggressive. They're right in the doorways — sitting in the doorways — panhandling."

Some businesses are locking their doors to keep panhandlers out, she told Edmonton AM host Mark Connolly Thursday.

"That's not a solution, that's a surrender."

The problem is turning off customers who are taking their business elsewhere, she said.

The area spans Kingsway, Beverly and Chinatown, but is worst near 101st Street and 111th Avenue, Sasseville said.

Sasseville points to the growing number of homeless people in the city, but also in downtown's Ice District.

"It does appear to be that there is so much attention focused on downtown right now with the Ice District," she said.

"There's been a new initiative to put more beat officers on the streets of downtown . . . that may contribute to some of these individuals moving out of the downtown area."

Business leaders received a commitment from city council this week to work with them toward a short-term solution.

"We can't solve homelessness," she said. "But we need some short-term solutions that will help us co-exist, if nothing else, until a long-term solution can be found."

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