Panhandling and Unsavory Behavior
Business districts across the nation are facing the problem of panhandling and, unfortunately, this is a problem that will never go away completely. However, there are things you can do to lessen the problem. Town Green Special Services District is currently working with the City of New Haven to address long-term solutions to this problem. Meanwhile, Town Green has teamed up with local outreach organizations to produce Street Sheet, a guide to New Haven agencies that provide food, clothing, shelter and emergency services for people in crisis.
Aggressive Panhandling IS: Directly requesting, asking for, trying to procure a handout or donation of money, goods or other gratuity from another person.
Panhandling IS NOT: Standing with a cup but not saying or doing anything; a musician playing with instrument case open for donations; busking, Salvation Army bell ringer; selling for a donation.
- Panhandlers (or others) who:
- Display aggressive or intimidating behavior, or try to get a handout via threat or coercion
- Obstruct the path of any passer(s)-by
- Public alcohol consumption
- Public urination or defecation
- Fighting or behaviors threatening or intimidating to you or your customers
- “Camping” or living on benches
- Living or sleeping in bus shelters; remaining in bus shelters unless waiting for the next bus
- Smoking in bus shelters
- Sleeping in doorways, entryways
- Selling things without a permit
What You Can Do
- Don’t Become a “Supplier”
- Do not offer cash to panhandlers. Panhandlers will congregate where there is a ready supply of spare change. That spare change could be used to feed an addiction.
- Do not offer food, water, coffee, clothing or other items. Social service organizations already provide meals, showers and clothing to people in need. In addition, these organizations are better equipped to deal with other, more serious needs a person may have. Donate items or cash to these organizations instead.
- Do not offer use of bathrooms or sidewalk seating. These comforts will encourage people to gather outside your business. Besides, your customers don’t want to walk a gauntlet to reach your front door.
- If you sell alcoholic beverages, be discriminate. You are not obligated to sell to everyone and do not have to sell to someone who is intoxicated or who has caused problems in the past. Single servings of alcohol – such as 40 oz. beers – are usually consumed on the sidewalk.
Know the Law
- Learn what is allowable behavior. Officers cannot enforce what we might call loitering or vagrancy. It is legal for people to congregate in public areas.
- Learn what behavior is not allowed. Officers can enforce aggressive and intentional blocking of the sidewalks and doors, open containers, disturbing the peace, and aggressive panhandling (verbal abuse, repeated requests, threats or physical contact). (see list on safety information handout, may want to include)
- Report all problems. The police will not know there is a problem unless you report it. If you do not leave your name and contact information or if you refuse to sign a complaint, no action can be taken by the police.
Spread the Word
- Educate your employees. Set a strict policy with your employees and make sure they understand what encourages panhandling. Make sure they know to call the non-emergency number (203-946-6316) if there are any problems.
- Educate your customers.
- Talk to college students. College students are particularly generous with their change, especially when leaving bars at night. Make sure they understand this is not the way to help someone in need.
- Send a message.