New signs in Barrie discouraging panhandling an unwelcome sight for advocates

Panhandling sign in Barrie Ontario. Via X: @JennVanGennip

Signs dissuading people from giving money to panhandlers in Barrie, Ont., are string up some questions, following other controversial moves to try and address homelessness.

The signs that say, “Say NO to panhandling; there are other ways to make a difference,” have been spotted in some areas of the city recently.

The signs in question have a QR code which links to, a website which helps people connect to various charities.

When asked about the signs, city staff said they come following a motion approved by council on May 17 to address the city’s homeless situation, with several initiatives including placing signs to discourage panhandling.

The city says the aim is to encourage donations to local service agencies instead.

However, after news of the signs came to light on X, formerly known as Twitter, Canada Helps spoke out against the move.

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“It’s been brought to our attention that our name and URL have been included on signage for the City of Barrie. We do not endorse this campaign and have requested to be removed from this signage. CanadaHelps respects all forms of support for the vulnerable,” the company said in the online post.

Following the response from the company, city staff say they have “heard feedback from Canada Helps and will remove reference to this organization on the signs.”

This comes months after the city tried to push forward a bylaw initially recommended at the May 17 meeting. If passed in June, it would have banned people and agencies from supporting people experiencing homelessness on public property.

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Council ultimately decided to defer voting on that bylaw after public outrage and several organizations called the proposed changes unconstitutional.

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But this latest move concerns advocates yet again, who say this is not the way to help those experiencing homelessness.

Jennifer van Gennip with the Barrie Housing and Homelessness Justice Network says the signs will likely not lead to more charity donations and that it is the wrong approach.

“I would like to see our community work more towards helping each other. We have formal supports, but those informal supports that come from being in a caring community are a really important part of a community safety net,” van Gennip says.

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She feels the sign was misleading to people in the community.

“Because there is no City of Barrie logo or branding on it, it just looks like Canada Helps is running an anti-panhandling campaign in our community, if you don’t know the back story and if you see the sign,” Van Gennip says.

In light of other backlash towards the city’s homeless response, van Gennip encourages the city to change course.

“I appreciate that the city wants to do something, and I can certainly appreciate that they are kind of getting it from all sides with this particular issue. I would like to see them take a human rights approach first,” she says.

“If you put this through a human rights filter, a lot of these problems go away, but as things stand, we’ve had some pretty problematic opposed bylaws that have been referred back for modernization of the wording.”

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