Panhandlers pose safety hazard: councillor

Andrew Robinson
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RNC says it has not received traffic obstruction complaints

St. John's Councillor Bruce Tilley. — File photo

A St. John’s city councillor says people who panhandle at busy intersections should find a safer place to ask for spare change.

Coun. Bruce Tilley says the issue is getting more out of hand every year.

“I had a call from a constituent about his mother, who was driving up, and she was scared because she was stopped right at the place that (the male panhandler) was,” he said.

Panhandlers singled out by Tilley stand at the medians of intersections, like the one where Columbus Drive meets Topsail Road, and wait for a traffic light to turn red before passing between vehicles looking for spare change.

“Sometimes they come off the median when there’s not much traffic and you’re stopped and they’ll come right to the window. That’s not very nice. In another situation, you’ve got a lot of people driving along with small kids, babies in their seats in the back, and you know, it’s no place to be collecting money.”

Tilley said panhandlers are a safety hazard for motorists, noting they are sometimes accompanied by a dog.

“They’re there. You don’t know if they’re going to jump off the median. You don’t know if the dog is going to jump off the median. And they’re trying to collect money all the time. It’s an inappropriate place.”

A spokeswoman for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary told The Telegram it has “not received any complaints of obstruction of the free flow of traffic or harassing or threatening individuals.”

She said police will investigate complaints of that nature if they are made.

The legality of hanging out on the median of an intersection is something Tilley is not entirely sure of, and he plans to bring the matter to the attention of the city’s police and traffic committee later this month.

“If it gets any worse, we’ll have to do something with it, I’d say.”

However, he notes that politicians are not allowed to have signs placed at such intersections during election campaigns.

Tilley says panhandlers situated in those areas amount to a similar distraction.

“It’s the same situation. If you can’t put a sign down and you’ve got a person up there with a big dog, what if the dog jumps off?”

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Geographic location: Topsail Road

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Recent comments

  • Mel
    April 10, 2014 - 16:12

    Panhandlers are becoming a nusiance on street corners. Those people who give them money cause delays while digging through their purse for change , all the while, the light is green and people waiting to get through the light are growing inpatient and blowing the horns. There should not be a need for this as there is enough work around for them to get a job if they were energentic enough to get out ande look. It should be banned from our street corners.

  • hugh
    June 13, 2013 - 20:39

    We have an abundance of panhandlers up here in Toronto. Relax Tilley they pose no threat and rarely harass.

  • Karen
    June 13, 2013 - 17:43

    I think it is ridiculous that they are there, it is definitely a distraction and obstructs a driver's view. I drive by Kenmount & Kelsey everyday and the young man there has been there for weeks with a sign that says "Traveling"...I'd love to be off traveling as would many others who work 40+ hours a week. There are a lot of jobs to be had.

  • Steve
    June 13, 2013 - 17:07

    Throw the bums out, and then throw the bums out.

  • Les
    June 13, 2013 - 16:35

    Good point Joey.

  • Ben Turpin
    June 13, 2013 - 15:53

    We have more bums in suits in this province than panhandlers in the streets. There are rules against agressive panhandling in Ontario, and BC. If those same panhandling rules were extended to political fundraising it would be a start toward fixing this problem of handout addiction. How can anyone take this complaint seriously when the consistent, most aggressive panhandlers are our elected politicians who set the example of extreme alms-begging? PC party keeps calling my home looking for $200 handout! They are hooked on donations. They are out of hand Bruce Tilley, please do something!

    • Tim Jamison
      June 14, 2013 - 10:42

      The PC parties both in Canada and Newfoundland keep listings of donors and of those who have requested no call backs and only during election times do they even seek out people instead of collecting passively. Lie much?

  • Political Watcher
    June 13, 2013 - 14:28

    Oh grow up Tilley and get over your snobby ways. I drive past these people just about every day and have never witnessed them being rude or aggressive towards motorists. They usually just pace back and forth and the drivers call them over if they have something to give. Oh, and to use the new rule banning the elections signs at intersections is sour graps because you can no longer do this. If you want to compare one person and a dog sleeping near them vs a bombardment of 2x2 and 4x4 signs as a safety hazard I welcome the person over the signs anyday. We all know it is an election year Mr. Tilley and that all you will be grasping for media attention but please, find a real issue that is of real concern to your citizens.

  • Go to Work
    June 13, 2013 - 13:56

    The irony is that you have to climb over the panhandlers to get into a business that's displaying a "Help Wanted" sign. Throw away your signs, clean yourself up and Go to Work!

  • Joey
    June 13, 2013 - 13:23

    Its tough having kids in the car and seeing these kinds of things... and being forced to try to explain to them how and way there are such social inequalities in our society! How do you explain to a child that some people fall through the cracks, that they face various struggles, and that you can't give them 25 cents, while you sit in a giant SUV and drive back and forth to your McMansion out in the suburbs? How do you convince them that you shouldn't help your neighbours who are in need, and then go to church and talk about how "good" a person you are?

  • Rose
    June 13, 2013 - 13:19

    That's not very nice!

  • James
    June 13, 2013 - 13:05

    The chap who hangs out at the intersection on Kelsey Drive and Kenmount is a likeable enough fellow. Well spoken and polite. It is a dangerous and distracting spot for him to be however. He told me on a good day he makes a little better than tax free minimum wage. Live and let live. Rather have him pan handling instead of ran sacking my house while I'm away.

    • Kenmount Rd Worker
      June 13, 2013 - 15:24

      I see that guy just about every week day on my lunch. His sign says "traveling need supplies" he has been there for months! Guess what? Your not traveling any more you live here! You sign should read "Too lazy to work! Need money for Liquor!" The reason he picks that spot is because its close the Liquor Store! That's the other place I've seen him...

    • Gordon Gekko
      June 13, 2013 - 20:17

      So basically he's making more money begging and laying about than all of those people slaving away at crappy jobs. Did he mention that he's collecting a welfare cheque on top of that? Tilley is just an old blowhard, we don't need to invent stupid laws banning people from hanging out in the intersection, but if we really want to get rid of these people we should throw a few of them in jail for welfare fraud. These punks at the intersections are not your typical mentally ill or addicted homeless, they are smart and organized, this is a business for them. Thats fine with me, but they are spitting in the face of society by collecting welfare on top of their earnings.

  • Shauna
    June 13, 2013 - 12:30

    I definitely under stand the issue here, but S. John's should be happy / proud of the minimal amount of panhandlers they have. Other Canadian cities can't pass any intersection at any time or walk down most streets without encountering one.