New Bedford Councilor: Homeless Encampments Are ‘Everywhere’
On a recent drive through Downtown New Bedford on a hot and steamy July evening, I was stunned to see the number of "homeless" people congregating in doorways and on stairs in the general vicinity of the bus terminal and the post office.
I can't say with certainty that all of the assembled were in fact homeless, but most appeared to fit the description. Perhaps the term "vagrant" might be a more appropriate fit.
The problem of homelessness or vagrancy in the downtown area is not a new one. Some business owners and elected officials have bemoaned the presence of these folks for some time now. Some have been known to urinate in doorways while others openly use drugs or harass passersby.
City Council President Ian Abreu said the problem has spread beyond the bus terminal area.
"There is an encampment at Buttonwood Park and at Custom House Square downtown," he said.
"We are starting to see and hear about more and more homeless encampments all throughout the city," Abreu said.
On Tuesday, I witnessed what appears to have been an encampment in the rocky, hilly area behind the Wilks Branch Library above Acushnet Avenue where the body of a young man was discovered the day before, an apparent victim of a drug overdose.
"It's obviously very concerning to all of us, especially to our families and senior citizens who often use our parks and playgrounds," Abreu said.
Abreu said police will offer to assist the homeless by informing them of the services available to them but "there are some who do not wish to receive services and that of course is very distressing to all of us." When that happens, Abreu said, "they stay on the streets and there's nothing we can do about it unless a law is broken."
City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Brian Gomes said homeless encampments are "everywhere." Gomes said there have been encampments in Buttonwood Park, "especially the area behind the donut shop near the pond."
"We need to make it known that trashing our city or committing open, lewd, and gross acts won't be tolerated, either," Abreu said.
He said he is open to suggestions as to "how we can better address the situation."