Another day goes by, and still no response from the Mitchell Administration to concerns about vagrants urinating and defecating in the downtown and other parts of the city. Why do these people choose to make these things like hand-to-hand combat?

It was as though a light went on over our collective heads when Councilor Brian Gomes, who chairs the city council's Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods, addressed the issue of the vagrants on my program on Monday. We've heard the concerns many times before, both about the downtown and other areas of the city where folks feel free to relieve themselves in public and inject drugs seemingly without much concern.

But this time, it was different. It seemed to dawn on all of us at the same time that we are talking about a public health crisis here. Vagrants and addicts use our streets, alleys, and vacant storefronts as toilets, and nothing gets done about it. How is this allowed to continue to happen?

Perhaps the light hasn't gone on over Mayor Jon Mitchell's head just yet, but it should. This must stop immediately, and Mitchell must tell us his plan to end it. Gomes and others have offered to work with the administration on the problem, but they have been ignored.

If Mitchell refuses to confront the issue, the council should step up. Gomes should schedule a hearing before the public safety committee and call members of the Board of Health and Health Director Damon Chaplin to address the situation.

Something needs doing, and someone needs to do it. The idea of public urination and defecation in our neighborhoods and city center is abhorrent and must be dealt with immediately.

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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