Worcester Poverty Issues

Topics: anti-panhandling campaign, social service program siting, the plan to end homelessness, and the library’s policy of lending to the homeless.

Key resources are in bold.

Anti-Panhandling Campaign

Resolution: In July 2006, Worcester took down its anti-panhandling signs, after more than a year of a failed anti-panhandling media campaign.

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.”

Social Service Program Siting


Summary and full text of the Mayor’s Social Service Task Force Report (October 2005). The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law says that some of the recommendations in the Task Force report violate federal law.

Worcester Regional Research Bureau report: Siting Residential Social Service Programs: The Process and the Options (pdf).

“The recent controversy in Worcester over the siting of residential social service programs led the Research Bureau to examine the process and regulations for siting such facilities. Based on a review of Federal and state laws, local zoning, court decisions, and conversations with providers and regulators of these programs, the Research Bureau offers some observations and recommendations for improving the process for siting residential social service programs in Massachusetts.”

Note that the Task Force report is an “official” one, created by a committee of politicians, social service professionals, and others. The Research Bureau is not a government organization and their report is not “official.”

KNIT Worcester: “Keep Neighborhoods InTact.” Includes info on proposed social program sites at Highland St, June St, and Catherine St. Even more Highland St info here.

SMOC: South Middlesex Opportunity Council. Runs the PIP Shelter, among other things.

History of CHL: Community Healthlink, connected with UMass. Several social programs, including housing.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition maintains the NIMBY Report, a monthly compilation of news related to housing and the “not in my back yard” syndrome. Frequent stories from Massachusetts.

“Why Not In Our Back Yard?” (pdf) (Planning Commissioners Journal, Winter 2002)


Plan to end homelessness


The Worcester Housing Action Committee has called for the immediate retooling and adoption of the City’s Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.

On July 14, the Telegram & Gazette ran a front page story about WHAC titled “Group asks city to help homeless.” As a counterpoint, they ran a second article titled “Report indicates city is addressing vagrancy problem.”

I believe that the T&G misrepresented the “Partners in Prevention” report (.pdf file).

Read the City Manager’s Homeless Plan, Aug 31, 2000(.pdf, 1.6MB).


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