City forms committee to study panhandler situation in Milford

Panhandlers in Milford may have to find a new place to operate if a committee that formed recently pursues legislation to ban them.

Mayor Ben Blake said a committee of social service representatives, law enforcement personnel, state legislators and others met Tuesday in Milford to start talking about the influx of panhandlers in Milford in the past few months.

Milford residents have become used to seeing several regular panhandlers — people holding signs and asking for money — at various locations in Milford.

In addition, one resident said she was walking downtown during a recent city celebration and a man walked up to her and asked for money.

“It was sort of unusual, I thought,” the woman said. “I don’t remember that happening in all the years I’ve lived here.”

Blake said residents have been calling city offices to complain or to ask questions about the people asking for money. Some callers express concern for the panhandlers, and want to make sure there are sufficient social service programs available for people in need.

Mayor Blake said there are a number of programs in Milford to help the needy, and one prong of the three-prong approach to addressing the panhandler situation will be to make sure people know about these programs.

The other two tasks the committee will address are public education and consideration of new laws to address panhandling.

There are some laws on the books that address the situation in part, such as laws against trespassing and creating a public disturbance.

“But some municipalities have specific panhandling ordinances,” Blake said.

The task force broke into three groups when it met Tuesday, and each will focus on the three different areas over the next weeks. Blake anticipates a report on the findings possibly at the next Board of Aldermen’s meeting, which is Aug. 4.

“We created the task force because there has been an uptick in the number of panhandlers,” Blake said. “Our initial concern is to discuss the appropriate response.

“We want an effective and comprehensive solution to this issue,” Blake said.

Residents have certainly noticed the increase in panhandling. An online news site reported a petition recently, in which a resident was seeking action to curb the increase in people soliciting monetary donations.

“Many of these 'regulars' appear to hardly be homeless, sporting clean clothes, haircuts and cell phones,” the petition states. “Panhandling should not be allowed in Milford. It is an eyesore to our community. If these people are truly homeless there are many reasonable options available in Milford and the surrounding towns for them.”

The creator of the petition stated that he offered medium type labor work to one panhandler for a day at a rate of $10 per hour, but the panhandler refused the work.

“That leads me to believe he is not homeless and likely doing better behind the scenes than many others in Milford who are actually working hard for their income,” the petitioner wrote.

A list of community programs aimed at helping the needy, which was recently circulated by the Rev. Karl Deutzman of the United Church of Christ in Devon, notes a number of available programs in Milford, from food banks, to counseling to free meals at various places during the month.

Mayor Blake said one goal will be to make sure this information is readily available to people in need.