Big City Problems: Panhandling

The New Downtown: The conflicted citizen’s inner dialogue.

This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s The New Downtown package, which includes a guide to five hotspots, a few big city problems, and a look at what’s next for the city. For more content on navigating the new downtown, click here.

“I just spent $15 at Patachou for the third time this week. I can afford to give someone who’s apparently hungry a couple bucks. I should share.”

“But they’ll just buy alcohol.”

“That old excuse. This person sits here every day and has never appeared drunk.”

“I’ve heard these panhandlers make a couple hundred bucks a day and give a cut of it to a pimp. It’s lucrative, or they wouldn’t do it. You’re being conned.”

“IMPD’s Homeless Unit says panhandlers by interstate ramps might be coordinated, but those downtown are often genuinely needy.”

“Last year, 16 potential conventions cited panhandling as a reason for going elsewhere. That was $24 million in business.”

“I get it. Indy’s brand is friendliness, cleanliness, and safety. But we’re also a caring community.”

“Caring means helping the needy find a lasting solution. Giving a bus pass is better than money.”

“Good idea. But I don’t carry bus passes. Besides, I don’t think panhandling is a scourge. It’s even legal.”

“For now. The City-County Council has studied stricter laws in cities that have gotten panhandlers off the streets and into a support network.”

“Advocates for the homeless don’t support outlawing all panhandling. It’s a necessary tool for those at risk of homelessness.”

“How about dropping money into that box on the corner, sponsored by Indy’s Coalition for Homeless Prevention?”

“That’s a good idea. Those boxes have raised over $35,000, and it goes to 16 groups that do outreach.”

“I guarantee each panhandler has been offered services and has chosen to sit here and collect money instead.”