Office to Prevent and End Homelessness

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our office is open 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Monday - Friday

TTY 711

3700 Pender Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030

Thomas Barnett,
Deputy Director

What You Need to Know About Panhandling in Fairfax County

Every year the Fairfax County Police Department receives hundreds of calls related to panhandling. The calls range from traffic issues to safety concerns for the individual panhandling to fears about a suspicious person at an intersection.

Panhandling can be found in most areas of our county. While we may get a good feeling by providing money to directly to someone in need, the reality is that people in need require more resources than small amounts of money.

Asking for money in public areas, including roadway medians, is not a violation of law.

The good news is that our county has many services and staff dedicated to help those in need, but we need your help:

We encourage you to not give money to individual panhandling.

Why?  Because giving money to panhandlers encourages more panhandling.  Because donations of cash will not help solve the underlying reasons why someone panhandles. 


What Can You Do?

  • Refer individuals soliciting money  – or anyone who may be in need – to our county’s social services programs. We have a wide-range of services and housing resources. Provide them with this human services hotline phone number: 703-222-0880.
  • You can also make copies of this handout with information on where and how to obtain critical services, including food and shelter. Have a few copies in your car to give out when you come across a person soliciting money.
  • Consider making a donation or volunteering for one of our nonprofit community partners dedicated to assisting our residents in need.

Fairfax County’s Approach to Panhandling

What Are the Laws?

  • Asking for money is a protected act under the First Amendment.
  • Asking for money in public areas, including roadway medians, is not a violation of law.
  • The county monitors legal developments related to panhandling.

What About Public Safety?

  • Our police officers will intervene when people commit traffic offenses or engage in criminal activity.
  • If you witness an individual  breaking the law, contact the Fairfax County Police Department. The emergency number is 9-1-1 and the non-emergency number is 703-691-2131.
  • Our police officers are very responsive and will take immediate action if a crime is being committed. Proactive community assistance with reducing criminal activity is invaluable.
  • Police officers encourage people in need to reach out to available county human services.

Who is Panhandling?

  • Not all individuals soliciting money are experiencing homelessness.
  • Some individuals panhandling are in need of money for food and other critical services.
  • Some of the stories shared by individuals soliciting money are untrue.

  • Some panhandlers operate as part of organized, professional panhandling rings.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant