Panhandling Awareness

Panhandling Awareness

“I didn’t need your money, I just needed a change.”


Downtown residents, students, workers and visitors are asked to refrain from giving money to panhandlers.

Are we brightening somebody’s day or adding to somebody’s downfall?
When we give panhandlers our spare change, our generosity is often invested in unhealthy behaviors by those who use it to buy alcohol and drugs. In essence, we are helping to keep the homeless on the streets downtown.

Are we helping or being scammed?

How can we best help someone looking for a handout? The best approach is to firmly but politely refuse the request for money. Instead, send your dollars to organizations and agencies that work to solve the problems of homelessness.

How to Handle Panhandling Situations

•  Walk with confidence.

•  If approached, firmly but politely refuse the request and keep walking.

•  If you feel threatened or see any violations of the panhandling ordinance, call the police. The non-emergency police dispatch number is 441-6000. In emergency situations, call 911.

•  Report such illegal activities as urinating in public, drinking alcohol in public, trespassing, littering or disturbing the peace. People who don’t appear to be coherent can be placed in civil protective custody if they’re unable to care for themselves.

Crisis vs. Chronic Homelessness

Of the 800 to 1200 estimated homeless people in Lincoln, strict homeless and panhandlers make up a very small number. While the majority of homeless people in Lincoln find themselves without homes because of crisis, the street homeless and panhandlers are chronically homeless.

The Crisis Homeless: Individuals and families who suffer from crisis homelessness usually have experienced an event that has created the situation. They may be victims of domestic abuse. Perhaps the loss of a job has created a chain of unending financial woes or maybe catastrophic medical problem is the cause. With the help of local agencies, many will be able get back on their feet again and out of shelter or city mission housing.

The Chronic Homeless: The street homeless and panhandlers are identified as chronically homeless because they are not working with local agencies toward finding a housing solution. Many are alcoholics or substance abusers. Some are mentally ill. Many have abused their privileges at local shelters and community kitchens, and because of their misbehavior, may not be allowed to use the services of these agencies.

Lincoln’s Support to the Less Fortunate

These are a few key organizations in Lincoln helping the chronically homeless:

People’s City Mission is a provider of food, shelter, domestic abuse recovery as well as drug and alcohol abuse treatment.

Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach provides daily hunger relief, transitional housing, life skills training, nutrition counseling, health outreach and basic emergency needs.

Cornhusker Place is a detox facility which specializes in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.

The Gathering Place provides meals, health screenings, financial management and a number of community outreach programs.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Homeless Coalition is a group of local community members who’s goal is to alleviate the problems of homelessness and poverty in the Lincoln community.