Background on homeless on the Greenfield Common

  • Homeless residents spend Tuesday night gathered together at one of the picnic tables on the Greenfield Common before camping in a tent there overnight, July 17, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

Staff report
Published: 7/31/2018 8:53:18 PM

Homeless residents started to gather on the Greenfield Common more than a month ago and the numbers have swelled from about two to as many as 20 people camping there at night. City officials have not provided official numbers. Estimated totals are from homeless resident Madelynn Malloy.

Malloy has become a de facto spokeswoman for the people living on the common.

Mayor William Martin said a January count totaled 39 homeless residents in the city, though he admitted the number could be inaccurate due to the cold weather possibly forcing homeless residents indoors.

Historically, during warmer months, homeless people have camped in wooded areas around the downtown, such as land once known as the “jungle” between Main Street and the railroad tracks. There are homeless shelters in the city, but typically, especially in warm months, if there are not enough beds, homeless people camp within walking distance of downtown. Some people prefer to live outside the shelters even if shelter beds are available.

Malloy and others have said previously they are camping on the common because there is no other place that is safe for homeless residents to go and because current city law allows them to stay there day or night. There are no requirements for licenses or permits to be there and the homeless residents’ actions are not considered loitering, but public assembly.

The city has an ordinance prohibiting loitering, but it only applies to sidewalks.


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