The Oneida County Department of Social Services has launched an outreach program to assess the needs of panhandlers in Utica and help align them with proper services.

County Executive Anthony Picente reached out to the Utica Police Department to form joint assessment teams that will include DSS caseworker and UPD officer.

The first patrol began this morning with the team interviewing individuals who have been asking for money in highly-traveled areas like the intersection of John and Oriskany Streets.

“In the spirit of the proactive approach we take to these types of situations on a daily basis, we reached out the Utica Police Department to address this issue in a comprehensive and compassionate manner,” Picente said. “Oneida County has a multitude of services that can provide assistance to those in our community who are in need. We want to do all we can to assist these individuals while also ensuring their safety, as well as the safety of the motorists traveling these high-traffic areas.”

The assessment teams will repeat their outreach patrols every two weeks to monitor the situation and help those who are in need.