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Opinion: Panhandling in New Bedford continues to be a major problem


The following was sent to us from a reader:

“As soon as heroin/opioid addiction became an epidemic in New Bedford, panhandling became an epidemic. Hmmmm, what does that tell you?

Panhandlers are everywhere in this damn city, and it’s a nuisance. It’s embarrassing to have out of town people visit. They qualify for section 8 and public housing before our veterans, disabled and elderly. They don’t have to wait long because they are at the very top of the wait list. However, I’ve been seeing the same ones for years. Homeless, my ass.

As far as veterans, I feel for them, however, a lot of these panhandles dress like veterans and they really aren’t. I know a few of them. I also saw a group of five people get out of a new BMW downtown and each took up a corner asking for money. Also, I saw a man downtown leave his corner, go behind the building I was in, and light up a crack pipe.

The mayor should make panhandling illegal. If you offer to bring them food, they say “I need and prefer the cash”. They are making more than me by standing near Market Basket. Market Basket has approximately 10,000 customers daily, especially on weekends. I looked it up when they went on strike. So if only a quarter of the people give them $1.00, they walk away with $2,500 that day. Insane. No wonder they rather stand there as a full time job, it pays more than all the entry level and moderate level jobs available. Panhandling requires no training or education. This needs to be stopped.”

Have an opinion you’d like to share? E-mail mike@newbedfordguide.com.

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  1. I was just there and saw two of them. Felt bad because they need help and my money won’t be able to help them.

  2. What city does not have a panhandler problem? Give me a break. Boston, Somerville, Cambridge etc. all have panhandlers and way more at that. You think New Bedford is unique? No city is ever going to allocate time and money to a non issue like this when there are always much more important things going on. You tried to make some connection between a heroin epidemic and panhandling and then in the same breath say you’ve seen these people doing it for years. The heroin epidemic has been going on for only 3/4 years. Also, if you “know” them then why don’t you grow a pair and say something instead of whining in some opinion column? And believe me none of these people are at the top of any housing lists. As someone who’s actually worked with the homeless for years I can say emphatically that you are wrong.

    • Bill, this is a brief (or maybe not so much) letter to remind YOU that this is an opinion column. Which means everyone is entitled to have their say, whether you think they are “emphatically wrong!”, or you agree. I might also remind you that men and women both read, and both have opinions, and may write in. Therefore, for you to disrespectfully tell someone, especially not knowing whether they be male OR female to “grow a pair” is, first of all, uncalled for, and second of all, really, really mean. What if the person who wrote that was your mother, grandmother, sister, etc? Now isn’t that an embarrassing thought?! It was never stated who, or what sex the reader was, right? I read through the article multiple times, and could not find anywhere anything to make you assume it was a man. Even if it was, why would you speak to them in the manner your letter was written?
      I understand how frustrating working with/for the homeless is, I have known people on both sides of that coin. Not enough funding, not enough beds, not enough hope. I feel you. They were incorrect on some issues, yes. However that does not give you the right to spew venom. You could have made your point, sounded like someone who is educated about the subject, as well as been a gentleman at the same time. Now, maybe YOU can “grow a pair” and apologize to who could very well be an eighty year old woman who is afraid to leave her house anymore? Or a man who remembers how it used to be, and afraid for the generations to come?
      I would also like to add that being 56, and having lived in N.B. my entire life until 12 years ago, I can “emphatically” tell you not once did I ever see anyone panhandling anywhere! Not a one. I’m talking from one end of the Ave. to the other, from the west end to the north end, and from Dartmouth to Fairhaven. So, unless I was under a rock the entire time (which I wasnt), this is not something that has always occurred here, I don’t care where else it has always been.
      And the heroin epidemic? The reader might not remember the 60’s and 70’s, when there was an outreach center on Acushnet Ave. It was run by, I believe, a Trina Costa? Yeah, my dad volunteered there. Plenty of heroin then. But panhandlers?Nope. The most someone would ask you for then was a cigarette. A nationwide survey was done recently on the opioid problem by the numbers. Guess where Massachusetts fell? It was either #3 or #6 in the entire country, I forget. And guess where N.B. landed in the state? Yup. #1! How’s that for statistics??
      Being a woman, the first point is, of course, your assumptions (and lack of class) in your letter. My second point is maybe we can all learn a few things from this opinion, and the comments. Thanks for reading.

      • Bill is a Libral, and even though you have the right to express your opinion, he opinion trump’s yours because according to him you are a fasist, mosoginistic, xenophobic rasist. There is no winning over a Libral nor is there any reasoning with a Libral.

        I vote Republican because not everyone can be on welfare.

    • I also worked for years with the homeless. They do go to top of list if they actually want housing. Most don’t because they would have to pay a percentage of their monthly income. Which is another point. The majority of pan handlers get a government check being either disability or welfare, plus food stamps. The first of the month is a holiday that they eagerly anticipate. That money is blown in a day or so on drugs, booze, lottery tickets, cigarettes etc. Food stamps are sold 50 cents on the dollar. No one should feel bad for these people. The ones who actually need help don’t get it. Our society has turned into a bottomless pit where money is thrown to capable but lazy individuals. Needs to end, learn to stop asking for handouts and start being held accountable.

  3. I’ll go one further than that. Say only 2% instead of 25% ‘donate’ $1.00 (sorry- really would rather say ‘throw away). They’re still looking at a $200 day, and I doubt they are all out there for 8 hours. It puts a new wrinkle into the saying ” the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, doesn’t it?

    • I completely agree with this. I can’t go anywhere without being harassed for money. And I never give them money. Sorry, but I work too hard for my money. They seem to be everywhere. And I always see the same faces, hanging around at stores, and busy intersections. It’s a full time job for them. It’s a hustle. They’re not truly homeless. So I don’t feel sorry for them at all. They are a nuisance! And yes, this goes on everywhere. But it’s a huge problem only getting worse here.

  4. Get a life. And stop complaining. There’s no law on panhandling. How would you know if they refused a meal, you never offered anyone anything.

  5. It’s getting to the point where I see a panhandle my children say mom please roll up the window im a single mom working two jobs providing the best way I can for my children I refuse to give my money away to someone that can go out there and work also and they stare at you makes my babies uncomfortable in the car

  6. I do understand both sides, but there is no need to attack each other or assume. I’ll be the first one to give for I do not know how another lives, however, I personally know a few. I worked in many residential home. I cannot speak for all, but the ones I do know are not homeless.

  7. The people who need help are those like the last commenter who get up each and every day to go to work to barely have enough for 2 children. The point of the piece is that it’s frustrating for those who go to work to provide for OURSELVES and are constantly bombared by those who’s day revolves around getting the best corner near market basket.
    And while yes we all know someone truly in need out asking for money, we all know too well the person holding a sign in one hand and checking their iPhone for a Facebook notification with the other. There are many many people in need in New Bedford, most of them are not out on the streets.


  9. From what I have heard, several of these panhandlers are not from the area, but just conduct business here. It is a lucrative trade. A friend is acquainted with one such person, and he reports earning from $50 an hour and upwards. It is recommended NOT to give panhandlers money, but donate to organized groups which assist the homeless population. e.g Market Ministries.

    Europe has the same problem with the Roma people. Organized begging, often using children, the elderly or the disabled to elicit sympathy, is a major social problem, and it is well-organized and highly lucrative. Although, it is Americans here that do the begging, it is to some degree organized. Please do not encourage this trade.

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