The city has created a new committee to address panhandling after receiving numerous complaints from residents, announced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres on Thursday afternoon.
Torres’ new working committee is made up of representatives from the city’s health department, housing authority, police, and St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center. The committee is tasked with figuring out ways to tackle homelessness and panhandling in the city.
“The city has received numerous citizen and visitor complaints on panhandler throughout the city at times both aggressive and menacing,” said Torres in a statement. The city’s many entrances are often guarded by White out of town heroin addicts seeking dimes and dollars from motorists as they enter the city.
Council members have repeatedly railed against panhandlers – who do not resemble the city’s mostly black and brown population– occupying the city’s entrances and further tarnishing its already battered reputation.
The mayor wants a “local needs assessment action plan” that will provide referral services and immediate assistance to the panhandlers.
“It is imperative we take action in resolving this quality of life issue,” said police director Jerry Speziale in a statement. “The committee and its recommendations will aid in identifying effective and fair ways to do so.”
The committee will likely have a needs assessment report completed within the next two weeks which will include recommendations.