Panhandling

Panhandling can be found in most areas of our county, generating many questions and complaints from our residents. While we may get a good feeling by providing money to an individual who panhandles, the reality is that those who are truly in need require more resources than small amounts of money.

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

Donations of cash will not help solve the underlying reasons why someone panhandles. Here are some important things to know about Fairfax County’s approach to this issue:

Who Panhandles?

  • Many people who panhandle have a need of a variety of essential materials and assistance. This can include food, shelter, employment, financial assistance, and behavioral health and medical care.
  • Unfortunately, there are also individuals who may use false stories to solicit money and assistance from residents.
  • Helping to connect people who panhandle to Fairfax County services not only opens doors to fulfilling a multitude of needs they may have (which often cannot be resolved with small cash donations), but it also helps to ensure that valuable resources and assistance are being directed to those who need it.

What Is the Law?

  • 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.

What About Public Safety?

Our Police Department receives thousands of calls related to people who panhandle, which range from concerns for the person seen panhandling to fears about a suspicious person at an intersection.

  • Officers will intervene when people engaged in panhandling commit traffic offenses or engage in criminal activity.
  • When police officers encounter people who panhandle, they refer them to available county human services, but cannot force them to receive services.

If you witness a person panhandling while breaking the law, contact the Fairfax County Police Department non-emergency number: 703-691-2131.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant