British Columbia

Aggressive panhandling driving away business, say Vernon shop owners

Some business owners in Vernon are at their wits end dealing with aggressive panhandlers.

'It's hurting our business more than I ever thought it would,' says one store owner

Some business owners in downtown Vernon say panhandlers are hurting their business. (Canadian Press)

Aggressive panhandlers are frustrating some business owners in downtown Vernon and the shop owners want the city to take action. 

Businesses on 30th Avenue say the panhandlers are scaring away customers. 

Shop owners in Vernon say aggressive panhandling is driving away business. (Jackie Bellerive)

"Our clientele is an older, female clientele and an older generation, you know? They don't even feel safe and they let us know that," said Rachelle Dixon, owner of Square One Apparel. 

"They don't want to go outside and wait for a cab after they get their hair done in our salon. We have to call a cab for them, walk them to their vehicles. It's a problem and it's hurting our business more than I ever thought it would," Dixon said. 

Jackie Bellerive of Faith and Company Fashions and Rachelle Dixon, owner of Square One Apparel say panhandling outside of their stores is the worst it has ever been. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Jackie Bellerive echoes the same sentiment. 

"Outside my store I see daily people sitting on my benches, harassing customers for money," Bellerive said, adding that in some instances panhandlers have stolen from her store. 

Shop owner Cathy Tordiff like many others wants the city to do more. 

"If the bylaw officers would actually — when they see the pan handling — say something to them that would also help," Tordiff said.

Cathy Tardiff from Terra Incognita Imports wants the city to do something about panhandlers outside her business. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Another suggestions is to remove some of the benches. 

"When we have a bench directly in front of our business, it's a gathering spot for panhandlers," said Bellerive. 

The city is hiring two new bylaw officers for the summer to deal with this issue and city staff have also been asked to research possible solutions. 

With files from CBC's Daybreak South and Tina Lovgreen.