PEI

Tourist complaint prompts defence, scrutiny of Charlottetown panhandlers

In the wake of a complaint from a tourist about an aggressive panhandler, another panhandler in Charlottetown says it would be "heartless" to come down on them because it's tourism season.

Downtown Charlottetown Inc. says more funding needed to help people on the street

Edgar Keefe says not all panhandlers in Charlottetown are aggressive. (Stephanie Kelly/CBC)

In the wake of a complaint from a tourist about an aggressive panhandler, another panhandler in Charlottetown says it would be "heartless" to come down on them because it's tourism season.

"It's the same as any other city, there's panhandlers everywhere and honestly, here most of the panhandlers don't bother people," said Edgar Keefe.

A visitor to Charlottetown complained earlier this week that panhandlers in the city were too aggressive she after said she had a disturbing encounter with one. 

Honor Nevin said one panhandler followed her across the street asking for change. She went into a pharmacy to get away from the person.

But Keefe said following people and asking for change is illegal — and there's only a few panhandlers operating in that manner. 

"What I do and what the panhandler does with the sign isn't illegal," he said. "I've spoken to the cops about it." 

Funding needed

In an email, Downtown Charlottetown Inc.executive director Dawn Alan said they acknowledge there are increasing complaints from citizens, businesses and visitors, adding the incidence of panhandling appears to be on the rise.

The DCI employs a street navigator, Jenn Nicholson who works with people looking to improve their situation.

"We, through her efforts with this program, now know for the most part who's on the street and what their needs are." 

But Alan said limited funds restrict the position to a part-time effort that deals with a full-time problem.

"Ideally we would have a dedicated Community Police Officer on foot patrol, to back up Jenn's efforts as there are situations we are unqualified and not prepared to deal with," said Alan. 

"DCI, on behalf of our concerned membership, is/will be reaching out to the City Officials in the hope of finding new efforts or approaches devoted to reducing panhandling in our Downtown."

With files from Stephanie Kelly