Tag Archives: panhandlers

Stop Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus’ war on the poor!

Homeles Coalition 2012
Opposing City Ordinance in 2012

By Gordon Davis

Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus’ bullying of the people of Worcester not to give donations to other people of Worcester (panhandlers) is problematic.

It was tried before by other City officials and failed. The failure led to the expensive lawsuit regarding “aggressive panhandling” which the City of Worcester will have to pay over $1,000,000 in legal fees!

First, let me say I have not noticed an increase in “panhandling” in Worcester. I have witnessed a person asking for help at the corner of Belmont and Shrewsbury streets being arrested on May 21, 2016. I suppose the police have not read the Supreme Court ruling.

This man asked me and others for donations on June 4 2016. He was polite, well groomed and thankful.

Going back to the same old failed policies as the City of Wprcester tried in the 2000s is problematic. Panhandling is a legal problem, a moral problem, an ethical problem and a social problem. It is a legal problem as the City Manager is using his governmental authority in an attempt to bully people. This issue of asking for help in public has been decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. People asking for help in a public place are protected from negative governmental actions. This might include City Manager Augustus speaking as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer and telling people it is better not to donate to “panhandlers.”I suppose it would be different if he said that was his “personal” opinion and not that of the City Manager.

It is unethical for City Manager Augustus to speak from the bully pulpit of his office attacking a group protected by the First Amendment.

It also might be unlawful and actionable.

It is a moral problem, as we have been taught to be charitable.

There are some things that government should stay out of. One of them is the bedroom. Another area government should stay out of is our choice of charitable giving. The government should not tell people to stop giving money to a church collection basket nor should it tell people to stop putting money into the coffee cup of a person asking for help in public.

It is a social issue, as not all of the charities are set up to help the homeless or others asking for help in public. When City of Worcester officials tried to get people to give money to charities and not to “panhandlers” in the 2000s several of the charities indicated that they had no programs for them.

At that time I asked the charities, “How do you intend to make sure that money that people wanted to go to the homeless or others asking for help in public get the money?”  

Their responses were that they intended just to keep the money for their ongoing projects.

The situation is the same today.

City Manager Augustus’ assertion that money given to charity will help the homeless and others seeking help in public is a pretext and a joke.

The City Manager’s response is not dissimilar to his response to the BlackLives Matter protesters. The Manager’s intimidation of the protesters and then the joke of the so called DOJ Race Dialogues did more harm than good.
I am not surprised that the gang of our three Worcester City Councillors – Gary Rosen, Konnie Lukes and Michael Gaffney – seems to support the City Manager’s continuation of the War on the Poor.

I am surprised that the City Manager has ignored his Jesuit training of Men and Women for Others. A training that emphasizes personal charitable works.  There is nothing charitable about the City Manager’s work at this time.

It would be a good thing to end homelessness. It is clear that our City government is unable and unwilling to do so. This is especially true when our City Councilors who are trying to help people are confronted by the bullying tactics of Billy Breault, Ed Augustus, and the Gang of 3. Mr. Breault made intimidating utterances to District 4 City Councilor Sarai Rivera who heads up the Council Sub-committee on Homelessness.

The issues of homelessness does not seem solvable within the present economic system. So it makes sense for those seeking help in public to, on their own, seek their respective solutions without negative governmental interference. 

Those pesky panhandlers!

By Rosalie Tirella

That’s what the Worcester City Council must have decided when it voted to treat the city’s panhandlers, folks who beg for money on our streets, the way you would treat, say, a stubborn case of cooties! Yikes! These critters are pesky, a pain in the neck and a public health scourge! Let’s just wash them out of our hair the way you would any varmint.

So our city leaders, lead by City Manager Mike O’Brien, our uber-expert when it comes to urban ills and the downtrodden, decided to make being out in our public streets exercising your freedom of speech a crime. Just the way they do in Russia when the peeps there get too full of themselves. Vladimir Putin would be proud!

So, the city has now decided to give out panhandlers little cards, with the new ordinance spelled out and a phone number to call if you need food, shelter, etc. These push cards are to be given out by our city cops, some of whom are not the friendliest or most sensitive people in Wusta.

I was talking with a pal in social services yesterday about Worcester’s panhandler problem. Let’s call my pal “Ann.” Well, Ann has been working with the city’s poor for decades and has a ton of insight. She is familiar with the struggles of so many city families. She has, over the years, seen it all, and she is half heart, half tough street smarts. While always there to help folks she also knows when she is being conned. Yup, some needy folks, especially heroin addicts, cocaine addicts, can be the biggest liars. Their addiction, so intense and powerful, makes them that way. Businesses, families, condos, etc are lost to drug addiction. Alcohol is also powerfully addictive, for some folks, some bodies, some minds.

Ann told me yesterday that by the time an alcoholic or drug addict has found himself or herself on a street corner begging for money, they have pretty much lost everything. You can’t tumble much lower.

When asked how the city’s push card campaign was gonna fly withthey majority of our city panhandlers, Ann gave me a knowing, world weary look.

Giving a person a card with a phone number ain’t gonna cut it. In fact, the city’s strategy is laughable: Drug addiction can take years to beat, with numerous stays at detox centers, numerous relapses, many moments of despair.

In short, Ann agreed with me that the city, like Boston, needs to hire homeless outreach workers, people who can actually counsel these folks, work with them over a period of weeks, months, maybe longer, if people are lucky enough to survive that long. Ann was direct when she said most addicts, hardcore junkies, alcoholics die. Drug addicts die from getting their bodies so sick or at the hands of a pusher. Drug dealers do not suffer dead beats gladly.

Ann went even further than I have, when it comes to dealing with the city’s panhandlers. She advocates sending out the outreach workers with serious resources, like the ability to get a person into a detox bed immediately, like the ability to help pay a person’s rent for a room, apartment. Beyond dropping them off at the Mustard Seed. Beyond driving them to a food pantry.

Ann told me some interesting stories yesterday, call them drug addicts I have known through the years. One story centered on a drug addict who kept getting dough from a good hearted priest, telling the padre that he needed the $50 to buy food for his family. Ann was visiting the priest when the junky was making his call. Ann knew he had a habit. What are you doing here he asked her. She said I could ask you the same question!

To cut to the chase, Ann told the priest not to give the guy money because he would only spend it on history addiction, not groceries. She went back and forth with the junky who tried to bs her but finally pulled up his long shirt sleeves to show Ann his needle tracks. It was a gesture both honest and heartbreaking.

Another drug abuser that Ann worked with: Years of the ups and downs of trying to stay off cocaine, losing his business, wife, home. Finally, he managed to beat back the demon – stayed straight for months!  He called Ann to tell her the great news … and to take her out to dinner.

To celebrate his sobriety. To thank her for staying after him all those years. Working the problem, not dismissing it. Or him.

We agree with City Councilor Joe O’Brien…

By Rosalie Tirella

… The city manager should follow through with the panhandler/homeless outreach program the city was touting a while back.

Last night, the Worcester City Council voted to make panhandling in Worcester illegal (for the most part). Police officers can be called to shoo away pretty much any person asking for money and issue them a $50 fine. The panhandler won’t go to jail; he/she may have to do community service. Good luck with that one, folks!

Instead of sucking up the valuable time of our city cops, cops who can be put to better use WALKING our inner-city neighborhoods, why not just hire one or two homeless out-reach workers? Kids or adults with some background in human services. People who can go to the panhandlers and tell them where they can go for food, shelter, a hot meal, advocacy etc. Hopefully, that person will even be able to give the panhandler “a lift” to the right social service agency/church, etc.

This new panhandler policy makes the city severe, unforgiving AND it doesn’t eradicate the root problems of homelessness/mental illness and poverty that panhandling is a symptom of.

The city council knows this, but it’s much easier to sweep stuff (and people) under the rug.

Worcester City Council agenda … panhandlers to be dealt with …

… harshly, I am sure. Meeting begins at 7 p.m., City Hall, Main Street (Tuesday, Jan. 15).  Click on link below for agenda:


Sometimes the Worcester City Council reminds me of this song.  Click on link below this photo to have a listen. Rotten to the core.  – R. Tirella:





Two songs for Worcester City Manager Mike O’Brien


As far as getting all the panhandlers off the streets of Worcester and into programs for substance abuse, etc, click on link below:



Regarding your cold, cold attitude about panhandlers;  inner-city families looking for safe, affordable housing; Worcester’s most vulnerable citizens;  poor people who want to skate on your Ice Oval, click on link below:


Shame on you!

Rosalie Tirella, strong-mayor supporter


While Worcester takes the low road …

By Rosalie Tirella

…. when it comes to its panhandlers and street folks, Boston is trying something innovative and compassionate. And way cool.

Ever hear of Panera Bread? We have a few of these bakery/coffee shop type franchises in the Worcester area. Well, it seems like Panera cares about the homeless because they have built several Panera Cares bakeries all over America. Including one in Boston, near city government, smack in the middle of bustling Boston. Panera Cares feeds EVERYBODY. Pay what you can, and if you can’t that’s Ok. You can still eat. Especially if you are hungry.



Very cool! This is why Boston is a first-tier city and Worcester is a third-tier city. It has so much to do with spirit, courage, the willingness to take big risks.

It works this way: It is a regular Panera Bread with all fresh soups and bakery items and beverages, including coffee. If you want to buy a loaf of bread, it is less expensive but also day-old, taken from other Panera Bread cafes/shops. Not bad, seeing most of the bread you buy at the supermarket is a day old and then some if you buy the packaged stuff that is trucked in.

So. How is Boston’s new Paneras Cares doing? How are America’s Panera Cares faring?

Quite well. There’s no class warfare g, oing on or panhandlers jumping the well off. Just a bunch of folks, Americans, eating lunch together. The middle class eat with the poor eat with the homeless. The folks who can pay full price for their lunches or snacks do. The folks who are short a buck or so pay what they can. Same for the homeless who eat with everyone else.

God bless Panera bread!

We mere mortals should pray for Worcester city council menbers and other city leaders so they too can grow hearts.

Surrealistic Worcester

By Rosalie Tirella

I haven’t listened to Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow” since my college days at UMass/Amherst. Took a listen to the CD yesterday while driving around Worcester, working on InCity Times. A pal let me borrow the CD and I thought: what the heck.

Then their song, “Today,” came on and I was … SLAYED.  Absolutely fucking slayed! It is that gorgeous! “A love song” doesn’t begin to describe it. (click on the link below pics to have a listen)

Why didn’t I devour this song in college, the way I did yesterday, driving around downtown Wusta in my jalopy? Probably too hooked on their “Somebody to Love” tune (click on the second link below). “Somebody to Love” is made for youngness!


But “Today” hit my middle-aged soul so hard! Sent me reeling! Made me SEE my city differently! Made me see – and this sounds weird – Wusta’s panhandler problem from a totally different angle. The human angle. The LOVE angle.


While driving around downtown listening to “Today” for the 40th time, I drove by a homeless kid and that young man became wrapped in the melody and lyrics of “Today” and the kid was so beautiful looking, so pure looking … . He reminded me of my youth, of Amherst … I began to cry, “tears running down my dress.”

The way he looked. The way he protected his lanky body from the cold – he was only wearing a sweatshirt over his tee shirt. I swooned to the way he felt … The way he most likely felt alone. He was alone against this Jefferson Airplane song about all-consuming, life-transforming LOVE. A single soul … one of Worcester’s panhandlers …  hiding in an alley way, sitting on his lean haunches, against a wall, carving out a nook for himself – against bricks and cement.


I was not on drugs. I was not even caffeine-ated, but I was totally high on this Jefferson Airplane song and this kid. This beautiful kid’s aloneness – where would he sleep tonight? I asked myself. so cold. he is only wearing a sweat shirt over his tee shirt. tall and … scrawny. yet the curly long black hair framed his face and he looked like an angel … .

The music of the sixties and seventies was made for me.

I drove home and ran to the computer and ditched the column I wrote for this issue of InCity Times (which comes out tomorrow) and tried to write about “Today,”  the homeless kid, my youth, love, love, love … hoping that the City of Worcester would get the message.

I failed.

(This post is another crack at it.)

What am I trying to say here? That this kid was beautiful but utterly adrift and vulnerable. A soul. A soul alone in Wusta’s universe. Panhandling for money won’t begin to undo the degradation that he has most likely already experienced and will continue to experience. So many runaway kids have been molested by relatives at home. That is why they run away… . So many of these youngsters find themselves on the streets looking for a place to stay warm and paying for it with their bodies.

It is the holidays. So (of course!) the City of Worcester has to roll out a punitive affordable housing policy and a brutal panhandling policy. City Manager Mike O’Brien and some city councilors need to listen to “TODAY.”



Somebody to Love:


On Worcester’s panhandlers and burn-outs

By Sharon Nietsche

There is a move to get the panhandlers off the streets. Not a ban but “something,” some way. I read an article about this. My reaction to the very casual attitude of the article was “Really?” We are talking about the city using lawyers, paid for by the citizens’ taxes no less, to find a sneaky way around the first amendment. Really. So my initial concern about this is a concern for the integrity of the constitution. Not in just this instance but lately in a lot of ways. I think our forefathers would be frightened for us. Okay, that said, and it is my biggest concern far and away; my concern for the constitution, but let’s look at this particular issue on it’s merits.

My first question to the people considering this. Have you put a lot of thought into this?Any thought? How about using some intelligence and looking into the question of why these people find themselves out there on the street in the first place and work on that angle.

It certainly can’t be easy to stand there. It would be much easier to sit at a pencil pushing job. Try offering them that. Like one of the jobs that the relatives of politicians get. Try offering them one of those. You’d get them all off the streets. (Hard not to get acerbic at this level of hypocrisy.)

I can think of so many solutions other than a “ban.” A ban is so heavy handed. So un- american. Some out of the box solutions come to mind. Remember Einstein said “The problems we have will not be solved using the same -thinking that created them.
How about offering the panhandlers a place to go. To sit and read and have a cup of soup and pay them $20 to stay there for the day. Would be cheaper than sending the police around to inforce this “ban” in gas money alone never mind for the police time it would involve. And that is just one quick thought there have to be many other less heavy handed solutions.

Think too many people would take advantage of that? Why is that? Are things “tough all over”? Well then look to the cause. Look what politicians have done to this country. Is your country worth it to do the research? Why does congress have a 7% approval rating? And this isn’t a digression. There is a cause and effect as to why so many more people are down and out and begging now and to see that you have to look at the bigger picture. And it is not a pretty picture.

But back to “Have you put a lot of thought into this?” Let’s put some thought into it right now.

About 10 years ago, when I saw people standing out on the street panhandling for money for food I was very concerned about it, concerned that people would be going hungry in the city. I called the Telegram and was told that most if not all the panhandlers were drug addicts or alcoholics trying to raise money for their habit.
So let’s say this is the case. That many of the panhandlers are trying to raise money for their habit. They get a little money and get what they need, get their drugs and or alcohol. Then get up and do the same thing the next day.

What happens when you take away this source of money for them to get what they need? I am going to leave some space for you to think about it. Just for a minute give it some thought.

That’s right. Not hard to figure. They are going to have to get their money some other way. People addicted to drugs and alcohol will many times do some pretty desparate things to get what they need.

Do you want your house broken into? Your car broken into? Do you want to be mugged?

My mother worked for many years at R. H. Whites at Lincoln Plaza. This was more than twenty years ago. It was close to our house so she walked back and forth to work. One Friday after she cashed her check, and was walking home through the parking lot, a car pulled up next to her and an occupant of the car grabbed her purse. Her purse was on her arm in such a way that she couldn’t immediately let go of it so she was dragged by the car, a white haired woman in her late fifties. She was bruised but thank God she was okay. This was before addicts had the option of panhandling, it just what they did back then.

To the people who want to “ban” panhandling, just one obvious question. Can you guarantee that crime won’t go up? If a drug addicts source of maintenance revenue is outlawed or in some way eliminated another source of revenue will immediately have to be found.

When you push a problem away to where you can’t see it, does the problem ever go away? Ever?

A different solution to the “problem” of this unattractive display of freedom of speech is this. When you look at a person panhandling say to yourself. “Thank god we still live in a free country. Thank god this is not North Korea. Maybe we could even pass out flags to the panhandlers that say “God bless America, God bless invidual freedoms.” So when people come into our city they will know how much we respect our constitution and our individual freedoms here.

The second attack on freedom is the story of late that some in the city might want to stop the Summer Nationals. I have never been a fan of the Summer Nationals. It’s not my cup of tea. Ten years ago when I was very involved with the Green Party, I thought the smoke they used to create on Main Street was pretty stupid. But even as a Green I never thought they shouldn’t be allowed to have their weekend of what they considered to be fun, Every day all that smoke would be a problem, but one weekend a year certainly could be accomadated because a hundred thousand people are having fun.

Again a hundred thousand people are having fun. I don’t think that should be something to be taken lightly. You don’t see too much of that in Worcester. You can’t put a price on people enjoying themselves. It’s priceless. In one article there was a question of whether or not businesses in the city were making any money. Say what? A hundred thousand people come into the city and don’t spend any money? Did they pack a two day lunch and drive to Worcester in solar cars?

One comment that really bothered me from a Worcester city councilor was this one and I quote: “This is the best we can do for Main Street in Worcester on the Fourth of July?” I would like to say to this person: What event did you sponsor? When did you bring 100,000 people into the city to have fun? The guy who does the Summer Nationals actually did it. If you don’t like this image, if you don’t like the image this creates about Worcester don’t whine about it, create an event yourself. Create an event that outshines this one. Encourage others to have all kinds of events here. Be a city of huge variety, have all kinds of events here.

Vive la difference.

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.