Mayor's Panhandling Work Group
The Panhandling Work Group was formed by Mayor Narkewicz to study the issue of panhandling, it's underlying causes, and potential non-legislative/non-punitive ways of addressing it and the needs of at-risk populations downtown. The group was formed last year following a January 2017 study on the local economy by the City Council's Committee on Community Resources that recommended the Mayor study the issue.
The Mayor's work group is comprised of representatives from ServiceNet, Tapestry Health, HampshireHOPE, Eliot Homeless Services, Hampshire County Friends of the Homeless, Downtown Northampton Association (DNA), Northampton Chamber, Northampton Police Department, and the City Council Committee on Community Resources. Peg Keller, the Mayor's Housing & Community Development Planner, staffs and facilitates the group.
These key stakeholders have been meeting with Mayor Narkewicz on a regular basis, and in smaller sub-work groups, to, in the Mayor's words, do a "deep dive" of research and analysis of this complex and often contentious community issue in a thoughtful, respectful, and data-driven fashion. In addition to extensive research into best practices around the country, the group has sought input and ideas from downtown panhandlers themselves through a voluntary research survey administered by work group members and associates seeking to better understand the myriad reasons that people turn to panhandling to meet their daily needs. It also includes an online survey of the broader community of both residents and visitors to downtown Northampton seeking to gain knowledge of people's understanding and perceptions of the panhandling issue and whether and what ideas for public/private initiatives to address it may have merit for further study.
Mayor Narkewicz's goal is to compile the work group's extensive research and any potential recommendations and next steps and present it to the Northampton community for its feedback. Please take the online survey and stay tuned to this page for more information and updates about this important work.