NEW BEDFORD- City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to pass a motion that will further discussions in city government of the implementation of signage encouraging responsible donating at popular panhandling areas throughout the New Bedford.

The motion would request the Health Department, Department of Public Infrastructure, Traffic Commission, and the Mayor’s Office to explore the possibility of the making use of the signs.

Curbing the act of panhandling has been a subject of discussion over the last few of years not only in New Bedford but as well in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Councilor-At-Large Ian Abreu sponsored the motion and cited the increase in public donations to provider services in Albuquerque as an indicator that these signs are that right move for New Bedford.

“Last year in Albuquerque is what this idea is kind of piloted off of. Last year they raised $61,000 for provider services to help those in need,” Abreu said. “Again, this will not curb panhandling. However, we do need to be able to start some dialogue and see what we can do try to help out those who are in need” he said.

Prior to voting, multiple city councilors who sponsored the motion voiced their opinions on panhandling in New Bedford in addition to their reasoning as to why they feel the signs should be put in place.

City Councilor-At-Large Debora Coelho requested to be listed as a sponsor for the motion in the middle of the council hearing. Coelho believes that the signs can be an effective way to get some of the people who need help access to it. The Councilor-At-Large also suggested the signs advise the public to not donate to panhandlers, something other city councilors fear could trigger a lawsuit with the ACLU.

“A lot of people who are donating to the panhandlers are a lot of suburbanites. They don’t live in the city and they think that they’re helping and what they’re doing is good because its instant and they see that person happy. They’re not helping out. It’s a lazy way of helping out community,” Coelho explained. “I hope in addition to encouraging folks to give to organizations in need, that the signs also encourage people to stop giving to panhandlers.”

Ward Three Councilor Hugh Dunn originated the idea of using signs in areas popular for New Bedford panhandlers. Dunn tells WBSM news what is to be expected next as the motion passed unanimously in the council chambers.

“The next step is that the motion goes to the Public Safety Committee. That will be convening next week and well have a more thorough discussion how this program can be implemented, how it can help the most people, and how it can help service providers to work with those folks who are at risk” Dunn said.

In addition to Councilors Dunn, Coelho and Abreu, City Councilor Kerry Winterson, and Council President Joseph Lopes sponsored the motion.

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