Nfld. & Labrador

Panhandlers in busy medians a safety risk, says St. John's councillor

The City of St. John's says police are cracking down on panhandlers who ask for drivers for money.
A panhandler in St. John's, named Christopher, says he has heard that police want he and other panhandlers to move out (Keith Burgess/CBC)

The City of St. John's says police are cracking down on panhandlers who ask for drivers for money at several busy intersections in the city. 

Coun. Art Puddister said Monday night that police are removing panhandlers from several medians in the city.

Puddister said he'd been in touch with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary about the number of panhandlers seen in busy medians, such as ones near the Avalon Mall, the Village Mall and the Delta Hotel.

Coun. Art Puddister says panhandlers in busy medians will be removed from the area by police. (Meghan McCabe/CBC)

"It's against the law and the Traffic Act to be out in the middle of a highway … so these people are being removed for their own safety and the safety of the motoring public," Puddister said.

Puddister said there's no plan to remove panhandlers from sidewalks such as on Duckworth Street and Water Street.

However, people standing at busy traffic intersections pose a risk for themselves and motorists and need to be removed, he said.

'I've had close calls'

Meanwhile, one panhandler, who asked to be identified as B from the Bay, told CBC News that the police haven't bothered him, but admits panhandling in the median can be a dangerous thing to do.

"You gotta pay attention," he said. 

"When you're out here, it's a survivor thing, because in an instant, you can get hit. And I've had close calls myself," he told CBC News.

"I was inches away, sometimes even centimetres away, from getting hit, just because I ran over to get a bill someone was going to give me."

He said drivers can usually tell on their own which people need help.

"If they [the driver] see you are really hungry, it's not hard to tell. If you see someone holding their stomach and they're having trouble walking," he said.

In addition, he said he's not actually asking anyone for money, and therefore not breaking any laws about conducting business in a roadway median, as Puddister suggested.

"Technically I'm not breaking any laws by being here in a sense because verbally I'm not asking anyone for anything. I'm holding a sign."