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While panhandling (individuals requesting money from passersby) is a legal activity, it is regulated by local ordinance. Contributing cash to panhandlers directly is discouraged, but many people feel moved to assist those individuals who choose to panhandle. The City of Bloomington recommends instead of contributing directly to individuals on the street, to instead donate to local social service agencies (listed with links in the righthand column of this page) organized to provide services that assist with housing, meals and medical care as the preferred course of action.

What is panhandling?

According to Indiana Code 35-45-17, Chapter 17, Panhandling means to solicit an individual on a street or in another public place and by requesting an immediate donation of money or something else of value.

Soliciting includes:

  • By making an oral request
  • In exchange for performing music, singing or engaging in another type of performance; or
  • By offering the individual an item of little or no monetary value in exchange for money or another gratuity under circumstances that would cause a reasonable individual to understand that the transaction is only a donation.

When Panhandling crosses the line:

Panhandling crosses the lines of acceptability and legality when a person knowingly or intentionally does any of the following:

  • Panhandles after sunset and before sunrise
  • Touches the individual being solicited without consent
  • When the individual being solicited is:
    • At a bus stop
    • In a vehicle
    • At a facility used for public transportation
    • In a motor vehicle that is stopped on a public street or alley (unless approved)
    • In the sidewalk dining area of a restaurant
    • Within twenty (20) feet of an automated teller machine or the entrance to a bank
    • Standing in line and waiting to be admitted to a commercial establishment
    • Standing passively, sitting, performance art or a sign or other indication that a donation is being sought, without any vocal request other than in response to an inquiry by another person.

Panhandlers may not:

  • Block the path of the individual being solicited
  • Block the entrance to a building or motor vehicle
  • Use profane or abusive language during a solicitation or after being declined
  • Make a statement, gesture or other communication that would cause an individual to fear for their safety or feel compelled to donate
  • Panhandle with another individual
  • Follow or accompany the solicited individual with that individual's consent after the solicited individual has declined to donate money

Guidelines for Responding to Aggressive Panhandling

The decision to give to a panhandler is purely an individual decision. However, if you choose not to donate the best response is to politely say "no" and walk away.

If a panhandler becomes aggressive or if you feel threatened call 911 or tell a police officer on patrol.

What you can do to help homeless and low-income families in our community

  • Donate your money to legitimate organizations dedicated to helping homeless and low-income families in our community
  • Volunteer your time to organizations and service agencies addressing this issue
  • Become more knowledgeable about panhandling, homelessness by visiting local social service agencies to learn of other ways you can help.