Mayor and Community Organizations Partner to Address and Reduce Unsafe Panhandling

WINNIPEG – Today, along with representatives of key community organizations, Mayor Brian Bowman provided an update on efforts to address and reduce the occurrence of unsafe panhandling along with short-term actions and long-term goals. Unsafe Panhandling is defined as panhandling that is occurring along boulevards and amongst traffic.

“As presented in my State of the City address earlier this year, unsafe panhandling is a growing concern for many citizens in Winnipeg,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “Today, we are announcing the progress we’ve made on this issue, some short-term actions that will be put into place immediately and the long term goals that will be worked towards.”

Like homelessness, there are many reasons and circumstances that can lead to a person resorting to panhandling. They are both very complex issues to address and require input from many stakeholders. During Mayor Bowman’s State of the City address, he committed to facilitating discussions with key stakeholders in an effort to reduce unsafe panhandling on our streets.

“In early July, I hosted a meeting with key community organizations and we discussed many of the possible underlying problems and possible solutions,” said Mayor Bowman.

The Mayor asked Lucille Bruce of End Homelessness Winnipeg and Stefano Grande of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ to co-lead the group and follow-up with concrete actions recommended by the group.

“I would like to thank the Mayor for convening this group of agencies and organizations to put a focus on collaborating toward reducing unsafe panhandling,” said Lucille Bruce. “Panhandling is a complex issue and I expect this process will provide great insight into how we can address it and at the same time, help those in need by proactively providing access to services.”

“The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ is committed to the Mayor’s vision for a safe and tolerant downtown for everyone, and this Unsafe Panhandling Strategy is our local communities’ comprehensive response to the Mayors call to action,” added Stefano Grande.

In addition to Stefano and Lucille, the following organizations were part of the consultation group: 

  • Downtown Winnipeg BIZ 
  • End Homelessness Winnipeg
  • City of Winnipeg
  • WPS Community Support Division
  • Eagle Urban Transition Centre
  • Main Street Project
  • MNP
  • Siloam Mission
  • West End BIZ
  • Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
  • Osborne Village BIZ
  • Exchange District BIZ
  • United Way
  • Canadian Mental Health Association, Manitoba and Winnipeg

After the discussion, Stefano and Lucille worked together to solidify the recommendations of the group and then presented them to the Mayor.

The immediate, short-term actions will implement:

1) A Multi-Agency Summer Outreach Pilot Program that will proactively engage panhandlers, develop relationships and make connections that can assist and then assess the results.

2) A Panhandling Employment Pilot Program where fulltime positions will be created with the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ to provide panhandlers with assistance in finding permanent employment.

3) An Enhanced Boulevard Safety Pilot Program aimed at utilizing low-cost, physical elements on unsafe boulevards, leveraging better design to enhance safety.

The consensus among the community organizations are that these plans can be put into action immediately and at no additional cost. To be clear, the organizations will be pooling their existing resources toward implementing these plans immediately and will then assess their effectiveness. Once these pilot programs conclude, there will be a much better understanding of what areas should be focused on moving forward.

With such a complex problem with many underlying causes, the short term strategies will focus on minimizing the practice of unsafe panhandling and assessing effectiveness. The group also identified key long term strategies that they will work toward and will be led by End Homelessness Winnipeg. They include:

1) The creation of a public education and awareness campaign to educate the public on the issues of unsafe panhandling, provide alternative ways to give and help and to identify long term solutions.

2) Developing environmental design considerations and standards for new developments.

3) Assessing the results of summer outreach and based on the evidence, identifying key areas to focus on to achieve the greatest results.

4) Organizing Winnipeg businesses and associations to employ panhandlers and other citizens affected by homelessness.

“As with many of the problems we face as a community, collaboration is the key that will lead us to better results. By bringing organizations with different insights together, we have developed a plan to move forward, in hopes of addressing and reducing unsafe panhandling by better assisting those in need,” said Mayor Bowman.