Worcester’s anti-panhandling signs removed

posted by Mike on August 25th, 2006

In mid-July I was told that Worcester took down its anti-panhandling signs, after more than a year of a failed anti-panhandling media campaign.

Now, photographic evidence has arrived: posts that used to have anti-panhandling signs, and no longer do:
DSCF8811 DSCF8810

I’ll be revising this post a bit in the coming days to give the history, as I understand it, of this campaign. I’ll probably be removing most of the anti-panhandling info from Worcester Poverty Issues.

Panhandling is not the problemIn April 2005, the City of Worcester adopted an action plan on panhandling (.pdf, 106KB).

The first step was installing billboards reading “Panhandling is not the solution.” These were promptly “liberated”, and essays opposing the campaign appeared in InCity Times, including “Worcester’s panhandling comb-over” and “Picking on People is Not the Solution”.

Not much happened the rest of the Spring.

The group Real Solutions began meeting, and in July held a demonstration at City Hall against the campaign. (video)

Taryn Plumb wrote a couple of good articles in the Telegram & Gazette about panhandling.

Real Solutions press conference at City Hall, Worcester, Mass.On September 15, the group Real Solutions asked that the anti-panhandling signs be removed at a press conference at City Hall. They also presented a recent statement against the City’s panhandling campaign signed by local clergy (including Monsignor Francis Scollen, my parish priest).

Some of the anti-panhandling billboards eventually came down, but the city installed small metal signs on lightposts with the same message.

Just before Thanksgiving, Worcester Magazine questioned whether the panhandling campaign had failed.

Just after Thanksgiving, posters saying “Stop the War on the Poor” were glued to the anti-panhandling signs.


  • Telegram & Gazette, July 31, 2005: Balance prosperity with compassion: Commentary by Robert Z. Nemeth. “I had an opportunity to read the city’s action plan to wipe out panhandling, which seems like a blueprint to fight the invasion of the body-snatchers.”
  • Worcester Magazine, November 23, 2005: The panhandlers are back: Thomas Reidy, panhandler: “My donations went up.” Dave McMahon, advocate: “They are back.” Tim Murray, mayor: “I think there is less panhandling taking place.”
  • Telegram & Gazette, June 4, 2006: Robert Nemeth calls anti-panhandling campaign “silly, and ultimately fruitless.”

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