A panhandler in Regina has found a way to avoid trouble with municipal authorities who aren't keen on seeing people begging for change on the city's street corners.
Making use of a bylaw that allows people to ask for money for charity, the panhandler in question, who city officials refused to name because of privacy concerns, recently got a permit from city hall that allows him to ask for money for himself.
Details about the case were introduced in a report submitted to city council Wednesday.
In a letter to city hall cited in the report , the applicant said he wanted to "raise personal funds for a short term … where such funds would only be used for shelter, food and personal needs."
City clerk Joni Swidnicki discovered Regina's charitable soliciting bylaw actually allows panhandling.
"The gentleman in question was prepared to go along with the process that was in place and did what was required," Swidnicki said.
"Based on the fact that this individual followed the process as it was outlined, I'm not sure what grounds it is that you would deny the permit on."
Swidnicki gave the unnamed man a permit — which is free — and city officials assume he used it.
Now, the city is moving to redraft its bylaws to prevent more people from getting a licence to beg.
The proposed changes would make it clear that people could collect money only for charities and other non-profit activities.
Currently, police sometimes deal with people begging for money on public property by telling them they need a permit.
That's been a successful strategy in the past, but now that it has been shown that panhandlers are able to get such permits, the city says it will have to try something else. Not only does the current law allow personal fundraising; it doesn't impose any time limits on such activities.
"This certainly opened our eyes to an issue that we haven't previously addressed," Swidnicki said.
Swidnicki says that while there are rules that cover people disrupting traffic or pedestrians, the city may need to work out specific laws for panhandlers and street musicians.
A committee of city council agreed Wednesday to review the current charitable soliciting bylaw. However, it's not known when any new rules will come into effect.