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Forum explores rise in panhandling

Moderator Gayle Gifford introduces panel members, from left. Jeffery Dana, Linda Katz, Rabbi Alan Flam and Diana Burdett. In addition, Cliff Wood spoke from the floor and Rep. Aarom Regenburg helped moderate.

Moderator Gayle Gifford introduces panel members, from left. Jeffery Dana, Linda Katz, Rabbi Alan Flam and Diana Burdett.

Rep. Aaron Regenburg, left, and Cliff Wood spoke from the floor.

Rep. Aaron Regenburg, left, and Cliff Wood spoke from the floor.

The recent surge in panhandling in Providence is directly caused by a rise in poverty, a panel of experts said Wednesday, but is also linked to the publicized curbs on the city’s ordnance against it.

Appearing before almost 40 people at a public forum at Summit Commons, 99 Hillside Ave., sponsored by SNA, the speakers were: Jeffrey Dana, Providence city solicitor; Linda Katz, policy director of the Economic Progress Institute; Rabbi Alan Flam, executive director of the Helen Hudson Foundation for Homeless America; and Diana Burdett, executive director of PICA, a charitable nonprofit that runs the state’s largest food pantry. They were joined by Cliff Wood of the Downtown Parks Conservancy. The session was organized and moderated by Gayle Gifford, president of Cause & Effect Inc., an advisor to nonprofits, and assisted by R.I. Rep. Aaron Regunberg.

Flam summed up the cause of panhandling, which is the act of seeking handouts from passersby, by saying it is a problem of poverty. “People don’t have enough money to live,” he said, adding that it’s “not a question of homelessness, it’s poverty.”

Katz supported that assessment, pointing out that 27.9 percent of the people in Providence live at or below the poverty level, which for a family of one parent and two children is $20,000. She cited the shift away from manufacturing jobs at which a high-school graduate could still make a living, but now the pay from available jobs is “not enough to support a family,” even with available benefits.

Getting those benefits, Burdett said, is often difficult, with children and the elderly being the most affected. “Many people wouldn’t be able to eat if they couldn’t access food pantries,” she asserted, adding that many also can’t access the health-care system so they self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. “It’s a full-time job being homeless,” she said, and that makes them vulnerable.

In answer to a question about who seems to be organizing the panhandlers, Wood echoed Burdett’s theme by saying the victims of poverty are targets of predators who steal what little help is given. He had said earlier that the city’s decision to not enforce the law against panhandling “opened the floodgates for petty criminal activity” downtown, prompting an increase in police presence. He said there was absolutely no criminalization of panhandling, but there is no city tolerance for petty crime, He said the downtown activity “has nothing to do with the homeless situation.”

Dana added that the city is working to get more housing and shelters available during the day and is cooperating with other agencies to develop jobs for the homeless. He stated that many anti-panhandling laws have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as infringements on the First Amendment and that “enforcing an anti-panhandling law is clearly not legal.” But, he added, “just because panhandling is OK, that doesn’t mean crime is OK.” He said “we’re not going to arrest our way to a solution of poverty.”

Flam gave this guidance to residents who “clearly want to help people in distress.” Don’t give money to the panhandler, he said. “It’s not about giving to the individual on the corner – give to the organizations that are working on the problem.”

Panel members and the two moderators wrapped up by urging residents to, a Flam put it, “turn attention and outrage toward public officials who don’t address” the underlying causes. “Citizens have not demanded solutions, have not participated in the public square,” he said.

 

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Temporary street closing at Miriam

Dear Neighbors,

This Saturday, September 24 we will renovate areas of the Baxt Building which have had water intrusion issues. This work will require us to raise some staging on top of the Baxt Building roof with the utilization of a crane.
We will need to close Seventh Street from Summit Avenue to Highland Avenue temporarily in order to erect the crane. The road will be temporarily closed to ensure life safety from 8:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.

Should we experience heavy winds or rain, the project will be postponed to the following weekend.

We don’t anticipate that the work will be noisy or have other major impacts in the neighborhood. Please feel free to call the Neighborhood Hotline at (401)-793-4040 with any questions regarding this project.

Sincerely,
Monica Anderson
Director of Community Relations and Corporate Citizenship

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Community-wide yard sale Sunday

The SNA yard sale will be held this Sunday, and it’s going to be a big event! Almost 50 sellers have registered to participate, and a number of Hope Street merchants will be holding sidewalk sales. In addition, the Indie Cycle truck will be parked in the CVS parking lot from 9-1, accepting electronics for recycling. (For a list of items accepted go here: http://indiecycle.blogspot.com/p/what-we-take.html)
Hard copies of this map of sale locations will be distributed from the Citizens Bank parking lot on Hope Street from 9-1 on Sunday. Hope to see you there!

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Learn the causes of panhandling surge

sna-panhandle-forum-pic1

 

Recently there has been a surge of people on the street asking passersby for money.

Some residents blame a change in law-enforcement policy while others assert that the whole situation is a scam. Many professionals link the increase to homelessness and poverty.

Learn what’s behind it.

Attend a forum from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Summit Commons, 99 Hillside Ave., on “Panhandling, Poverty and Homelessness.” It is sponsored by SNA and will be moderated by Gayle Gifford, president of Cause & Effect Inc., an advisor to nonprofits, and R.I. Rep. Aaron Regunberg.

Guest speakers include:

Diana Burdett, executive director of PICA, a private charitable nonprofit which runs the largest food pantry in the state and provides intensive case management for the homeless. She is also part of the Downtown Improvement District
;

Linda Katz, co-founder and policy director of the Economic Progress Institute;

Rabbi Alan Flam, executive director the Helen Hudson Foundation for Homeless America;

Jeffrey Dana, chief solicitor of the City of Providence (or another city representative.)

Don’t just curse the darkness, help shed some light on the problem.

https://www.facebook.com/events/331629333838011/

 

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Garden area cut, fencing almost done

Some rocks had to be dug out for the posts.

Some rocks had to be dug out for the posts.

Some of the posts had to be repositioned.

Some of the posts had to be repositioned.

The new gardens portion leaves more space for kids to play.

The new gardens portion leaves more space for kids to play.

About 10 would-be gardeners returned to the Summit Avenue park Sunday morning to resume work on the fence for the community plots, but were interrupted by a cloudburst.

Part of the day’s effort included reducing the perimeter to preserve more playground space in this initial phase of the city’s refurbishment of the entire facility.

However, about midday the sky opened, the rain poured down and the volunteer workers packed up their tools and left. Later a few returned after the sky cleared and completed most of the fencing. More work days will be scheduled to finish that job and build the raised beds for the individual gardens.

 

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Do fence me in at community gardens

The holes, drilled by city workers, were adjusted.

The holes, preliminarily drilled by city workers, were adjusted.

The posts were braced to be vertical.

The posts were braced to be vertical.

The holes for the rails were aligned.

The holes for the rails were aligned.

About twenty neighborhood volunteers on Saturday began to build the fences needed for the community gardens at the city park on Summit Avenue. The holes were dug Friday by Parks Department workers and the gardeners-to-be set the posts, adding concrete to the bases of some. On Sunday, the rails are to be inserted and concrete added to the footings of the remaining posts. Volunteers are requested to be at the park at 9 a.m. and be prepared to work until 3 p.m. Additional work days will be determined to build the raised beds for the garden plots. Some Scouts participated Saturday as part of their community service.

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Community garden fences to be built

sna-work-day-for-website

Now is the time to build the fences that were laid out for the community gardens in the city park at Summit Avenue and Ninth Street.

Neighborhood volunteers interested in gardening are asked to assemble in the northeast corner of the “tot lot” at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 and work until 3 p.m. setting the fence posts into holes dug by city Parks Department workers on Friday. The next day, Sunday, Sept. 11, work will resume, if needed, at 9 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m. inserting the horizontal rails into the posts.

Participants are urged to wear work clothes as well as gloves and bring hand tools such as hammers, saws and shovels. Scrap lumber for bracing the posts will also be needed.

Future work days will be called to build the raised beds for the individual plots.

Planting is expected to be in the spring.

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The water in the Lippitt Park fountain is back on, but please treat it with care

The Henry Bowen Anthony fountain, a gift to the city, is again flowing in Lippitt Park . . .

The Henry Bowen Anthony fountain, a gift to the city, is again flowing in Lippitt Park . . .

. . . but the cost to the city to replace the caulking, reportedly pulled out by children playing in the basin, was $13,000. As the sign says, please be careful with the new fixture.

. . . but the cost to the city to replace the caulking, reportedly pulled out by children playing in the basin, was $13,000. As the sign says, please be careful with the new fixture.

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Holding power accountable in Summit

John Mariion, right, the executive director of Common Cause RI, is introduced by Mark Tracy, the coordinator of SNA's lecture series.

John Mariion, right, the executive director of Common Cause RI, is introduced by Mark Tracy, the coordinator of SNA’s lecture series, Wednesday in Summit Commons.

“The real key” to making government work properly, says John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, is for “people to take advantage of the right to participate.”

Speaking to about 15 Summit residents Wednesday evening at the second in SNA’s lecture series, Marion said, “We can build institutions, but who is going to take advantage of them?” His topic was “How do we hold power accountable?” and was followed by a question-and-answer period.

He said citizens must become “active visitors” at meetings of governmental bodies and “have to file complaints” to make laws effective and figure out how to enforce them. He cited the history of Common Cause, which was formed nationally in the 1970s as a “people’s lobby” and worked in Rhode Island during the 1980s on the separation of powers in state government.

Marion, who lives on the East Side “near the observatory,” said citizens hold legislators accountable at election time but also must monitor “how they hold the public trust between elections.” Unfortunately, he noted, the district has been represented by people who abused that trust.

He urged voters to support the proposals on the November ballot to modernize elections in the state. “One of the broken institutions in Rhode Island is the Board of Elections,” Marion said, that “wants to run elections the way they always have.” He pointed out that there is state ethics commission, but that the R.I. Supreme Court ruled that the commission doesn’t have jurisdiction over legislators. He said Common Cause was working to get that power back to the panel and urged his listeners to support that effort.

In answer to a question, Marion said that a constitutional convention is not necessary to revise election laws, but can be accomplished by ballot questions.

He closed by pointing out that in such a small state, “government is readily accessible and citizens can take advantage of that.”

Marion joined Common Cause in 2008, and is its chief lobbyist and spokesperson in Rhode Island. Before that, he was a graduate student in political science at Indiana University and taught and wrote extensively on American politics and public policy. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Binghamton University where he met his wife, Karen Ng. They have twin daughters and are “very much members of the community for the long term.”

 

 

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An invitation to light up Hope Street

kick-off party invitation

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