About panhandling

Panhandling is an issue that is often linked with homelessness, even though studies show that many panhandlers are not homeless. Panhandling and homelessness are complex social problems that impact our community and those affected. The City of Peoria works with community partners and human service organizations to strategically address these complicated issues. This page provides some general information on panhandling along with several tips on how you can effectively assist those in need.

What is panhandling?

The term “panhandling” traditionally refers to asking for money in a public space. Courts have ruled that it is protected as free speech under the First Amendment.

Is panhandling illegal?

Panhandling and homelessness are not crimes in and of themselves. Panhandling is not illegal unless the individual is blocking you or the roadway or harassing you in some fashion. If you witness or experience aggressive panhandling, call 911 and provide a brief description of the individual and their location.

Why say "no" to panhandlers?

Many people may not realize that donating to agencies dedicated to helping people in need such as churches, shelters and food banks may be a better way to help the homeless versus providing individual contributions. These organizations work to address the root causes of poverty and homelessness with programs and services to help individuals.

How is the city addressing panhandling?

The City of Peoria works to address homelessness in a variety of ways:

  • The city opened a new Community Assistance Resource Center in 2019, which has representatives from more than a dozen non-profit and human service organizations.
  • The city publishes the Community Resource Guide with the City of Surprise, which contains information and contacts for a wide variety of human service and relief organizations. The guide is available in both English and Spanish and can be downloaded online, or picked up at city hall or at a police station.

How can I help?

  • Consider sharing the Community Resource Guide, which contains information on local organizations that can help people in need.
  • Visit to learn about programs and opportunities that give long-term help to those in need. This site is managed by the Healthy Giving Council, which is a regional organization dedicated to educating and connecting residents to direct, healthy, and lasting ways to give to those in need. By working closely with the homeless, they have learned that “unfortunately, one-off donations delivered to street corners, parks, or other locations provide short-lived relief and can delay or divert people from seeking services that can help end their homelessness.”