Worcester, Mass. Is 1 Step Closer to Panhandling Ban

(NECN: Kristen Carosa) - The city of Worcester takes one step forward to making it illegal to ask for money from drivers at busy intersections.

The city council passed two ordinances aimed at panhandlers who walk in and out of traffic asking for donations.

"The ordinance is looking to prevent anyone for being out on the street for any type of money, not just panhandlers,” says Sarai Rivera.

Supporters say the ordinances are about public safety while opponents say it doesn't address the real issue at hand such as homelessness.
District four councilor Rivera says she's one of the two councilors who voted against it.

"It's not dealing with the issue because it affects a number of other issues in between such as sports league and fire fighter fundraising.”

For more than 35 years, firefighters have raised more than $500,000 for the muscular dystrophy association through their annual "boot day.”

Firefighters use boots to collect money from motorists at intersections.

But that long standing tradition is now in jeopardy.

"We have other ways of raising money but the boot day itself allows us to raise $20,000 in one day, it would be impossible to make that money anyway else,” says John Franco.

City leaders are looking at ways to keep the tradition going.

The mayor and city councilor Bill Eddy has asked city manager Michael O’Brien to assist the department to find other locations such as shopping plazas.

“We are asking that retailers across the city just they open their arms to the Salvation Army at Christmas time, they can open their arms to help the Worcester fire department to help continue the tradition,” says Eddy.

Lt. Franco says while the department appreciates the city's effort he says there's no way to raise the same amount without being on the street.
He says there's no way the ordinance will address the real problem.  

"A year from now, two years from now, I'm pretty sure panhandlers will be back on the street again but you won't have us out there and we are the ones that are out there for the right reason.”

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