The Fall River Diocese must do a better job of addressing issues related to homelessness at St. Mary's Cemetery in New Bedford's West End. Parishioners pay a lot of money to have loved ones interned at St. Mary's and should not have to contend with vagrants while visiting the various gravesites.

The Standard-Times ran a piece online on Monday about a woman who "dropped trou" and urinated against a tree "less than 20 feet away" from where another woman was visiting her father's grave on the anniversary of his death. The woman told the paper about a group of panhandlers who camp out near the Route 6 entrance to the cemetery, often leaving behind bedding and trash. She says she has witnessed them having sex and "shooting something into their arms."

Several times while waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Routes 6 and 140, I have witnessed a man and a woman entering the cemetery by climbing the wall. It struck me that they camp in the cemetery, or at least spend a great deal of time there. I have also seen them begging along the median strip on Route 6.

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Since the cemetery belongs to the Diocese, the city has little control over what goes on there. Diocesan spokesman John Kearns told the paper that the police have moved homeless individuals from the cemetery in the past.

Kearns said the church is "respectful of the challenges" the homeless face. But that isn't good enough. The church must also be mindful of the challenges of those visiting the graves of their loved ones, many of whom are elderly, or women venturing in alone.

The Fall River Diocese should post "No Trespassing" signs in the cemetery and see that they are enforced.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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