[Hpn] Panhandlers subject of meeting; 'The Repubican'; Springfield, MA.; 8/12/2006

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@gmail.com
Sun, 13 Aug 2006 14:19:03 -0400


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Saturday, August 12, 2006
The Republican
[Springfield, Massachusetts]
Panhandlers subject of meeting
http://www.masslive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1155368403106550.xml

Saturday, August 12, 2006
By MIKE PLAISANCE
mplaisance@repub.com

SPRINGFIELD - A city councilor has scheduled a meeting for Thursday to
deal with what he said is the problem of homeless people and
panhandlers bothering businesses and pedestrians downtown.

Councilor Domenic J. Sarno, who works as executive director of the
South End Community Center on Howard Street, said that vagrants are
constantly around in the South End, at the riverfront and on State
Street.

"They literally come knocking on your window and if you don't give
them anything, they give you the finger," Sarno said this week.

Next week's meeting of the City Council Civil Rights and Race
Relations Committee, of which Sarno is chairman, will be at 1 p.m.
Thursday in Room 200 at City Hall. Sarno has asked officials from the
police, housing, health and law departments to attend.

He also is contacting representatives of social service providers, the
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which is on the riverfront,
the Affiliated Greater Springfield Chambers of Commerce Inc. and
neighborhood groups.

Sarno wants to discuss possible solutions, such as having vans
available to bring people with mental problems or those abusing drugs
or alcohol to treatment facilities, he said.

But Kevin J. Noonan, executive director of Open Pantry Community
Services, 287 State St., said that among the questions are, where
would the money to pay for the vans come from and where would
treatment be provided, as existing facilities are overwhelmed.

Business people are upset with vagrants downtown. And while the "tent
city" of homeless people that once formed on State Street hasn't
sprung up for a few years, there are people living on the riverfront,
Noonan said.

But, he said, "The majority of people are law-abiding and are just
trying to make it through the day."

Police Sgt. John M. Delaney said panhandling and people sleeping in
doorways are problems particularly on West Columbus Avenue near the
riverfront.

Police will "move along" and even arrest problem-causing vagrants. But
the key is to eliminate the root of the problem that dumped such
people on the street to begin with, a complicated question for which
Delaney said he doesn't pretend to have the answer.

"We try to address it as much as we can," Delaney said.

Meal-providers and shelters obviously are important, Delaney said, but
they almost backfire by offering services for several hours and then
putting numerous homeless people back onto the street at once.

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