Law
Fact-checked

At MyLawQuestions, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Is Panhandling?

Panhandling is the act of asking strangers for money in public spaces, often with handmade signs and heartfelt appeals. It's a practice rooted in need and desperation. Discover the stories behind the faces on the street—what might they reveal to you?
Marlene Garcia
Marlene Garcia

Panhandling occurs when a person solicits money, food, or other items of value from a stranger on public or private property. It might constitute passive or aggressive begging, which ranges from simply holding out a cup for spare change to using pressure to convince someone to give money. Panhandlers, also called beggars, vagrants, or cadgers, appear internationally, and levels of tolerance for the activity vary. Some regions enact laws to control panhandling while other countries impose no regulations against begging.

Beggars are typically male, single, and unemployed. Studies conducted on panhandling show some people soliciting money in public suffer from drug or alcohol abuse. They are more prevalent in cities with heavy pedestrian or vehicular traffic, especially near train and bus stations, subways, and college campuses. Some panhandlers find lucrative opportunities outside restaurants and grocery stores because people might be more willing to give after eating or purchasing food.

Homeless people can often be seen asking for money, or panhandling.
Homeless people can often be seen asking for money, or panhandling.

Two basic attitudes exist on public soliciting: sympathetic and unsympathetic. People who are sympathetic to beggars might believe begging is necessary for vagrants' survival, and panhandling needs no regulation. They may feel a social responsibility to help those less fortunate. People who take an unsympathetic view might see panhandling as frightening, disrupting the peace, and contributing to other crimes. They generally favor laws that punish beggars and regulate their behavior.

Beggars are typically male, single, and unemployed.
Beggars are typically male, single, and unemployed.

Some regions attempt to deal with vagrants by limiting the hours of the day when begging is allowed, such as banning nighttime soliciting. Other laws prohibit panhandling in certain areas where pedestrian or auto traffic might be impeded. In some cities, beggars are not allowed near public transit, automatic teller machines, restaurants, and other designated places. Some regions impose registration and licensing requirements before anyone can ask for money.

Panhandlers typically ask for spare change to help them out.
Panhandlers typically ask for spare change to help them out.

Passive panhandling might include someone standing outside a business with his or her hand out while holding a sign asking for money. Street entertainers who perform in public with a container nearby to accept donations fall into the passive begging category, along with people who wash car windows at traffic signals hoping to receive a donation. Even if a beggar does not verbally ask for money, it might be considered solicitation. Laws against passive begging might end up in court, where they are challenged under freedom of speech rights.

Panhandlers may beg for money to feed a drug habit.
Panhandlers may beg for money to feed a drug habit.

Aggressive panhandling is usually considered more serious and the focus of legislation. If a vagrant blocks passage or continues to ask for money after being refused, it constitutes aggressive behavior in some areas. Acting in a threatening manner that frightens a person may also come under the definition. Touching someone while begging, or using foul or obscene language, may be deemed aggressive actions in certain jurisdictions.

Some panhandlers solicit food from strangers.
Some panhandlers solicit food from strangers.

Beggars may claim a certain corner or location they find profitable. Research shows younger people are more likely to give money to panhandlers than older citizens. The elderly usually are more fearful of vagrants because they question their ability to protect themselves. Women, minorities, college students, and tourists may be good sources of income for the vagabond because they tend to donate more freely.

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Homeless people can often be seen asking for money, or panhandling.
      By: stockbksts
      Homeless people can often be seen asking for money, or panhandling.
    • Beggars are typically male, single, and unemployed.
      By: Leah-Anne Thompson
      Beggars are typically male, single, and unemployed.
    • Panhandlers typically ask for spare change to help them out.
      By: Africa Studio
      Panhandlers typically ask for spare change to help them out.
    • Panhandlers may beg for money to feed a drug habit.
      By: Creativa
      Panhandlers may beg for money to feed a drug habit.
    • Some panhandlers solicit food from strangers.
      By: darkhriss
      Some panhandlers solicit food from strangers.
    • Homeless people often panhandle by carrying signs asking others for food or money.
      By: margaretwallace
      Homeless people often panhandle by carrying signs asking others for food or money.