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NEW: Worcester City Council Approves Panhandling Ordinance

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

 

The Worcester City Council voted 8-2 on Tuesday in favor of two ordinances that would prohibit aggressive panhandling in the city and keep pedestrians out of roadways. Also impacted by the ordinances are "tag days" held by youth athletic leagues and teams and community groups that solicit donations at intersections and along roadways.

The ordinances were approved in committee earlier this month prior to coming before the full City Council for a vote.

A number of residents had previously voiced concerns over what was described as a "panhandling ban," however, Councilors were quick to assure the public that panhandling will still be legal in Worcester.

"Anyone who read this will know that it has very limited impact," said At-Large Councilor Konstantina Lukes, who serves as chair of the Public Health & Human Services Committee that reviewed the ordinances with the Municipal Operations Committee on January 3rd. "Panhandling is not being prohibited. This is a balancing of interests: the public and those who need to be on the street looking for money to support their needs."

The two dissenting votes were cast by District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera and At-Large Councilor Joseph O'Brien. At-Large Councilor Michael Germain was absent.

Rivera voiced her objections to the ordinance, stating that the discussion surrounding panhandling had been sidetracked from addressing the underlying issues of poverty and homelessness.

"This is kind of an embarrassing situation because it really is not having the proper conversation," she said. "We need to target poverty, not target people."

Rivera also said that outreach efforts undertaken by City Manager Michael O'Brien's office in conjunction with social service agencies in the city had been productive but had not been given adequate time to work to full effect.

Councilor O'Brien said that he did not think an ordinance will solve the problems at the root of panhandling in Worcester and requested a report from the City Manager on what outreach efforts will be undertaken going forward.

"The ordinance may not solve the problem," said District 2 Councilor Philip Palmieri, "but the ordinance has triggered a dialgoue that has made us take a more serious look at people that are homeless, people that are part of these non-profits that are in poor parts of the city.

"They feel helpless," Palmieri continued, "and we as a Council can't do more if we don't make them feel as though we want to really help."

 

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