Regarding the Recorder Article,
clegg - with all respect (and I _do_ respect you: in my experience, and by reputation, you are a stand-up guy who has been a positive force in the community) I think you are mixing apples and oranges and bananas on this one.
Who cares if "not many of us can afford to shop at" the store making the complaint? Leaving aside whether that's actually true (which would require a better definition of "us"), are you saying that bad behavior in front of a store that caters to rich people is okay? Because rich people deserve to be hassled? Because, as steerpike opined, they "need to re-evaluate how lucky the[y] ARE"? IMHO, bad behavior is bad behavior -- in the boardroom, and on the street. And are these people protesting some sort of class inequality represented by Greenfields Market, or are they just acting out there because the market is kind enough to provide them with benches? (which, I'm guessing, very few of their rich customers actually use.)
No, I guess. The benches are there to lure low-income people to the store, where they can be persuaded to violate the law by using SNAP benefits to purchase take-out food, further enriching the store in question. Well, if that's the case, then somebody should report it to the authorities. Bad behavior takes many forms, and standing around while a crime is being committed is one of its forms. Who was it who said, "The only thing that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good [people] do nothing"? I believe that, and I encourage people to speak up.
But according to the article, the co-op wasn't the only business that thought there was a problem -- they were just the only one willing to go on the record. And the other businesses along that stretch do not sell food, so SNAP benefits are not a factor.
What I got from the article was that there is a problem: bad behavior by people on Main Street who apparently have limited skills (social and otherwise) and limited options on where to hang out. I think that's a problem, and not just in Greenfield but in many other places as well. And I don't think that the answer is more police, although if I were a business owner who was being affected I think my first call would be to the police. But for the rest of us, maybe we can come up with a better answer.
My suggestion is that we encourage the social service community -- any way we can -- to move away from the idea that people with problems ought to aspire to live on their own in single-occupancy apartments,and encourage encourage group-living situations that simulate an extended family.
I had some experience with such a situation more than 50 years ago, and from what I saw it worked very well. It's only flaw was that it was seen as a "step" towards "independent living", so the folks who did well moved on to their own apartments. When they (inevitably, IMHO) moved back (because they found living on their own, without any of their friends around, lonely and depressing), it was seen as their failure, rather than -- as it should have been -- a failure in the mindset that thought they should have moved out in the first place.