The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is expected to hear Massachusettts Coalition for the Homeless v. City of Fall River, this Monday, November 2nd regarding the controversial Massachusetts statute “17A.” This statute basically forbids soliciting from vehicles on public ways. Although panhandling is not explicitly mentioned in the statute, in March of 2019, the Fall River Police Department filed over 150 criminal complaints under the statute, most of which targeted the homeless.
This case is being brought by members of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. The named plaintiffs in this case, John Correira and Joseph Treeful are both members of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. Correira and Treeful are both low-income residents of Fall River. Both have experienced homeless and both rely on panhandling as a source of income. Because of this, they have been subject to combined forty-three criminal complaints, and both have been incarcerated in connection with the complaints.
Panhandling is a prevalent issue that has been around since Colonial times. In light of stagnant wages, high rent, the opioid crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic, panhandling is not going to disappear anytime soon. With the current state of tragedy the world is in, many individuals are going to find themselves at rock bottom, without a steady income to fall back on.