Alberta government to launch anti-panhandler program

CALGARY — The Alberta government is embarking on a plan to stop panhandling, saying people should donate to charities instead of people on the street.

CALGARY — The Alberta government is embarking on a plan to stop panhandling, saying people should donate to charities instead of people on the street.

The program would be modelled on one in Denver where people put money into donation receptacles that look a little like parking meters.

The money would then go to the Homeless Foundation and other support organizations.

Premier Ed Stelmach says the best way to help the homeless is to break the panhandling chain and give them a safe haven where they can get the necessary counselling.

Calgary has had an anti-panhandling program in place since 2006 and says the number of panhandlers working in downtown has dropped from more than 100 to less than 30.

But Tim Richter of the Homeless Foundation says it isn’t entirely clear whether the program is actually working the way it was intended to or if it’s just moved the problem elsewhere.

“Has it moved out of the downtown? Has it shifted into other things?” he asked. “Are people who used to be panhandling now bottle-picking? What really is the problem we are here to try and solve?”

Fiddler and busker Armand Arsenault admits he sees his share of panhandlers on the street but doesn’t think they are a problem and doesn’t think the provincial plan will make much difference.

“I don’t think you are going to get rid of the panhandlers,” he said. “I think they are always going to be there.”