Panhandling concerns in downtown Northampton

Many of these panhandlers can be found on Main Street in Northampton

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s possible you’ve encountered people asking for money on Main Street in Northampton. The City Council’s Committee on Community Resources met Monday night to consider the city’s economic challenges, which include panhandling.

The City already has a law on the books to protect people from “aggressive panhandlers.” Committee Chair Gina-Louise Sciarra said, “People do have a constitutional right to stand and ask for money. They don’t have a constitutional right to stand and block people and we have laws on the books.”

While there’s no ordinance prohibiting panhandling downtown, Northampton Police told 22News panhandlers cannot sell anything, block your path or touch people.

Many of these panhandlers can be found on Main Street in Northampton. Police Capt. John Cartledge said there are restrictions on where they can be located. “By ordinance they are not supposed to block the sidewalk, but there are brick pavers that we recommend they move too to create an open path.”

Peter Seterdahl, a building owner, said, “It seems to me that the problem ought to be address by educating the citizenry about what it means to give panhandlers money and how it reinforces the cycle.”

Northampton business owners identified panhandling as a public concern, but Calvin Parent of Birdhouse Music said he doesn’t believe it’s that big of an issue. “I wish that people would conduct themselves with a little bit more civility intact, but that being said they haven’t been a huge impact on our business.”

An admitted panhandler, Jose Brown, told 22News he’s just looking for a little help to get his three year old son back from DCF custody; “I just need that help because they judge me from my record when I was younger. I’m 34 and I just need a helping hand.”

Northampton held four public forums this summer to address the effects panhandling is having on the businesses and residents.

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