WINNIPEG — Panhandling has long been a controversial issue in Winnipeg. Now, some are noticing there are more people than ever standing on boulevards across the city asking for money from drivers, and many of those people have homes.
One of those panhandlers is Kevin Stefaniak.
“I live with my wife,” Stefaniak said, as he stood on the sidewalk at Osborne Street and River Avenue on Wednesday in the pouring rain.
Stefaniak said he got laid off from his job five months ago, so he panhandles to make ends meet.
He’s been doing it every day, rain or shine, just hoping he can get enough to eat before sunset.
“They fear us,” Stefaniak said, watching people walk by him. “We’re just as human as they are just because we’re in a rough situation it doesn’t mean we’re doing something bad.”
He said the competition has recently gotten tough.
“In and around the intersection I do find there’s more every year, there’s more people out there,” Stefaniak said.
The Downtown Biz has noticed that too, but doesn’t quite know why there are more panhandlers.
“The amount of panhandling seems to have congregated on the boulevards but not only downtown but on the major arteries throughout our city,” Stefano Grande with the Downtown Biz said.
The Community Homeless Assistance Team or C.H.A.T did a survey recently among panhandlers downtown. Out of 11 people they asked only three people were homeless.
It’s not illegal to panhandle but once they step off the curb and into traffic they can be fined up to $1,000.
“We do feel this is a big safety concern over the last few years there have been some serious accidents,” Grande said.
For Stefaniak, he hopes his luck will turn around soon.
“I got resumes out there so I just got to wait for some phone calls.”