Facts About Panhandling

Panhandling is a critical concern in Downtown and throughout the city. Although homeless individuals are not alone in soliciting, panhandling is pervasive enough to be disturbing to Downtown visitors, workers and residents.

Panhandling (often soliciting for money) is not illegal on public space unless it is done in an aggressive manner or at/near certain locations. No person, for example, can ask, beg or solicit alms within 10 feet of an automated teller machine (ATM), or on buses or the Metro and at bus, subway or train stops and stations.

Soliciting also is unacceptable in other instances, such as in exchange for cleaning motor vehicle windows while the vehicle is in traffic on a public street and on private property or residential property, without permission from the owner or occupant.

Aggressive panhandling on public space is illegal. It is considered aggressive when accompanied by one or more of the following acts:

  • Approaching, speaking to or following a person in a way that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily harm or the commission of a crime;
  • Touching a person in the course of soliciting without that person’s consent;
  • Continuously soliciting from or following a person after the person has made a negative response;
  • Intentionally blocking or interfering with the safe passage of a person or a vehicle; and
  • Acting with the intent of intimidating another person into giving money or another thing of value.

The Downtown SAMs are trained to monitor the behavior of homeless individuals can provide assistance when aggressive panhandling becomes a problem. If you are a victim of aggressive panhandling immediately walk into a nearby business or commercial property and call 911. For additional information or to report what appears to be aggressive panhandling, you can also call the DowntownDC BID’s dispatch unit at 202.624.1550.

The Downtown BID discourages people from giving any individuals money. Money received from strangers or “regular contributors” can help feed drug or alcohol addictions.