Worcester panhandling report/plan, 2012

posted by Mike on July 13th, 2012

The City Manager’s response to the City Council’s request that something be done about panhandling is now online. The agenda item is: “Transmitting Informational Communication Relative to a Reponse to Reduce the Incidence of Panhandling in the City”. PDF link

There’s 57 pages of stuff here. Glancing through the 4-page letter from the City Manager that opens the document, we see these highlights:

  • Social Service/Treatment Response: A social worker from SMOC will do outreach to panhandlers, connecting them with services, providing general reports on panhandling to the city, and working with police if the occasion arises. There will be a phone number people can call to complain about panhandling, and these reports will make it to the social worker. I don’t think this was part of the previous anti-panhandling campaign. (PDF of previous plan)
  • Enforcement: “Peaceful panhandling is constitutionally protected speech.” From Jan 2011-Jan 2012 the WPD estimate they received 181 reports of non-peaceful panhandling, which led to 5 arrests.
  • Public Education: AKA, telling people not to give to panhandlers. This was pretty much the only part of the previous anti-panhandling campaign that was implemented, and was an embarrassment and a failure. The City Manager notes that “Several social agencies, including the United Way” have agreed to work with the city on a public education campaign.

In a nutshell: We’re hiring a social worker to deal with the problem.

Many more details, especially as regards the media campaign, are yet to come.


Photo: The showcase billboard from Worcester’s 2005 anti-panhandling campaign, defaced.

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3 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On July 13, 2012 at 17:46 Dave McMahon said:

    Looking forward to going through this. The SMOC outreach worker sounds similar to what was done in Philadelphia for outreach, based on the notion of persuasion. Heres hoping for sustainability!

  2. On July 14, 2012 at 09:35 elmparkblogger said:

    I was an early critic of the multitudes of panhandlers that are all over the City. I said then, and I still believe that the City council too often puts down the college graduates who leave our city in droves to live elsewhere and spend their new earnings elsewhere while we allow these raggedy miscreants to hang out at every corner.

    Panhandling makes it look the social services in Worcester either don’t exist or are failing.

    Panhandling makes it look like there are multitudes of failure in Worcester. (nice way to sell the City to outsiders, huh?)

    Panhandling would seem to offer a “an acceptable career solution” to the young adults in junior and senior high school. Panhandling offers an alternative ur own and , ahem, working in this view.

    Panhandling might be acceptable if you wanted Worcester to continue on its downward economic slope. I, however, refuse to accept that pessimistic view for Worcester and its future.

    Living close to heart of downtown Worcester these last 10 years has taught me plenty about how the social service agencies work, who gives money to the panhandlers and who the panhandlers actually are. It’s the kind of stuff you won’t see in the newspapers.

    Most of them are living in a place or couchsurfing. They have other income (usually government subsidized). Panhandling offers an income source where they can set their own hours, is relatively convenient and Uncle Sam doesn’t to know.

    The system exists because ordinary folks are afraid to confront this ugliness or, more likely, feel guilty about their own quality lifestyle. Panhandling underscores the idea that the social service agencies around Worcester are failing to do their job too.

    If you want the grade school kids and high school kids in Worcester to set their sights low for their future, please continue your current policies. However, if you feel like me and want to have them shoot for the stars, do what you have to do.

  3. On July 16, 2012 at 21:06 Kevin Ksen said:

    Could you say more about the Outreach Worker Dave? Do you give the Philly model 2 thumbs up? The Worcester model has the Outreach Worker wed pretty closely to the WPD. Is that a replication of the Philly model?
    I think we need to make a really clear distinction between an Outreach Worker who works independently and one that works in conjunction with the WPD.
    I think the hate campaign also must be thoroughly prevented. Back in 2005 there was an apparent increase in violence directed at panhandlers and homeless individuals. Any thoughts on that?

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