Setting the record straight on panhandling

Get the facts. Know how to act.

panhandling lexington ky

"Hey, can you spare some change?"

This is a question you may have heard while walking down the street. This is what is called “panhandling.” 

A lot of what people think they know about panhandling is wrong. And many people may not know what to do when someone asks them for money. 

Busting Myths About Panhandling

People who panhandle are homeless.
Most people who are homeless do not panhandle.

Many panhandlers are not homeless. Panhandling is about how you earn your money; experiencing homelessness is about where you sleep. Don’t conflate the two. 

People make a lot of money panhandling. 
Generally, no one earns enough from panhandling to permanently change their life. 

It is illegal to panhandle.
Panhandling is not illegal under the
First Amendment.

The exception to this is aggressive panhandling, which includes asking for money in a way that is threatening, following someone, or blocking the path of the person being asked. A person panhandling also cannot obstruct traffic, or enter medians. If you see this, call or text 911.

You may wonder:

If someone who is panhandling asks me for money,

what should I do? Should I give or not?

The short answer is no. 

Here are three reasons why you should not give money directly to someone panhandling:

The money you give is theirs and what it gets spent on is their choice. It may be used to buy food, or it may be used to support addiction.

It could keep someone from seeking help or getting into housing.

A couple of dollars here and there won’t help someone in the long run.

But what if I do want to give?

That’s great to hear! Here are better ways to help.

Give tangible items.

Water, non-perishable foods, or bus passes. Or, we have a nifty printable resource card that has the names and phone numbers of service providers in the community. 

Volunteer your time.

There are many organizations that help get people stabilized.

Donate that money.

Your donation to the Lex End Homelessness fund is strategically distributed to Lexington nonprofits to support their work to end homelessness in our community.

Other Helpful Tips

If you meet someone who wants to connect to services, contact the Lexington Street Outreach team.

Street Outreach team: (859)551-8053

If you do see aggressive panhandling, or if anyone makes you feel unsafe, call the police. Ditto if you see someone who seems like they need medical help.

Law enforcement: (859)258-3600  

Medical Emergency: 911

The Bottom Line

When it comes to panhandling: give change that lasts.