Hartford Working On Best Solutions To Panhandling
Hartford is looking for credible solutions to an increasing problem of panhandling. For medium- to large-sized cities, it is an evergreen problem of making residents feel safe and comfortable but also helping those in need.
With the growing opioid crisis in America stemming from prescription pain medications, many individuals fall victim to vicious cycles of treatment and relapse, and find themselves on the street as a result. These men and women then resort to asking for money on the streets, a practice commonly known as panhandling.
It is no secret that this practice makes some residents uncomfortable, even if they are sympathetic to the plight of the person asking for some change or a spare dollar. This prompted the City to enact an ordinance in 1995 that outlined and prohibited aggressive panhandling.
What that means is that no one may follow, touch, block, or generally direct abusive or profane language towards another, even and especially if that person has said no to the request.
Hartford guides help back to top
While the Hartford Guides, a non-profit community service and on-street security organization, acknowledges that the vast majority of homeless do not criminally violate those behaviors outlawed by this ordinance, they offer that “the overwhelming majority of those who do engage in these prohibited practices are not homeless.” Giving in to panhandling, “you are more likely to subsidize substance abuse by that individual rather than help someone who is looking to obtain basic needs.”
The city of New Haven recently enacted the “Give Change to Make Change” program that placed parking meters and posters around the city collecting money to battle homelessness and making the public aware that “it’s ok to say no.”
At a recent meeting between the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association, panhandlers, city employees, and social workers, possible solutions were discussed. The problem is the efficacy of programs like these. Getting it to the people in a way that ends the rotating door of substance-abuse programs is no easy task.
The Hartford Courant, in a piece on this meeting, cites Tom O’Brien, a prosecutor for Hartford Community Court who handles panhandling, as saying: “they know their presence is unwanted, and most of them would rather not be on the street.”
For those who work in Hartford or are simply visiting, the Hartford Guides suggest saying no to panhandlers and supporting an organization like the United Way that has been most effective in handling homelessness.