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‘Beg-A-Thon’ organizers lament low attendance

<p>Zorba dancer Dimitri Kardaras, front, performs during the Zorba Show event at Ottawa’s Greekfest last night. The plate-smashing act is a hit with visitors.</p>




“I’m disappointed. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, make yourself known.”






Zorba dancer Dimitri Kardaras, front, performs during the Zorba Show event at Ottawa’s Greekfest last night. The plate-smashing act is a hit with visitors.





Some cars got squeegeed (with permission) but there was almost no begging and few of the panhandlers for whom the event was held showed up.





The first “Beg-A-Thon” event held yesterday on Elgin Street near the Human Rights monument didn’t match organizer’s expectations.





“I’m disappointed,” Ian Houston, one of the event organizers, said about the turnout. “If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, make yourself known.”





Houston was hoping to see more action from panhandlers who he said, “bitch and complain, but when it’s time for action, (they) run for the shade.”





The event was intended to protest discrimination against the homeless by having them panhandle along the street. But Houston said media reports indicating that panhandlers risk arrest if they violate the Safe Streets Act may have discouraged people from participating.





The protest was planned at a time when panhandling has become a contentious issue across Canada. Last Thursday, a 32-year-old died after being stabbed by aggressive panhandlers when he refused to give them change, and on Aug. 1, a panhandler robbed and assaulted a 79-year-old man in the vestibule of Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver.





But Jane Scharf, who has been holding an anti-poverty vigil outside of Mayor Larry O’Brien’s window for over a month, said panhandlers need to be helped because they are people in need, not criminals.





“People capable of rational thought should know that behavior is not indicative of all panhandlers,” said Scharf. “They are such a vulnerable group of people. They really don’t need that type of hatred.”





There was no visible police presence at the protest beyond the occasional patrol car driving past.


 
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