City’s panhandling ban harms the unhoused, says homeless man

‘I tell you, it’s embarrassing. We’re not happy to be out here and that’s why we’re so grateful for those who give anything,’ says man panhandling in Barrie

He’s articulate, polite, humble, 34 years old … and homeless in Barrie.

Rick (not his real name) spent part of last Thursday afternoon panhandling, carrying a cardboard sign, asking motorists for change on the ramp from Highway 400 to Bayfield Street.“My unemployment (insurance) ran out and I couldn’t go back to work, and almost as soon as that happened I started doing this,” he told BarrieToday. “The shame and the embarrassment it took for me to get here, took a month after no more EI (Employment Insurance), and now I’ve been doing this about eight months of my year and a half of homelessness.

“I tell you, it’s embarrassing,” Rick added. “We’re not happy to be out here and that’s why we’re so grateful for those who give anything. I got a Tim Hortons card today and I’m so happy because I’m going to get a coffee and a doughnut as soon as we’re done here.”But tougher times could be on the way when Barrie city council begins implementing its measures dealing with chronic homelessness and public safety.These wide-ranging measures also address panhandling, drug addiction, mental health, shelter, counselling and feeding the hungry. It commits as much as $825,000 to these measures during each of the next two years.

There will be methods to prohibit payment to panhandlers on city streets, intersections and highway ramps, along with placing signs on city off-ramps to discourage panhandling or financial support for panhandlers, and instead encourage donations to the local social service agencies.“It would mean an extremely hard day,” Rick said of a panhandling ban. “It’s going to mean a lot of struggling and suffering for us out here.

“I’m relatively new to this and I’m experiencing this amount of hardship,” he added. “My friends that I’ve met, being homeless, they are some of the best people I’ve ever met. They’ve been doing this five or six years and I don’t know how they do it. I can’t imagine what they’re going to do without this little bit of change, if that, daily.”

Rick says most homeless people who panhandle do it because they aren’t aren’t physically able to do full-time work, or able to do it for long periods of time.

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