Indianapolis reaches agreement with panhandlers

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Panhandlers will have to stick to the sidewalk under a new agreement with the city of Indianapolis that settles a federal lawsuit.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed last August in which panhandlers bucked Mayor Greg Ballard's high-profile effort to run them out of downtown Indianapolis.

Four panhandlers represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said city police had tried to drive them off sidewalks even though they were complying with existing ordinances. The ACLU said in its lawsuit that the crackdown violated panhandlers' First Amendment rights.

Under the agreement filed in federal court Friday, begging along roadways and directed at passing motorists will not be allowed. Begging on the sidewalk is fine, as long as it's directed at pedestrians and it isn't aggressive.

The city also agreed to drop or consider dismissing citations against several panhandlers.

City officials had no immediate comment.

Ballard proposed the ban last year after he said officials had received numerous complaints about people begging for money along downtown streets. Existing city ordinances limited panhandling to daylight hours and set other restrictions, but Ballard said the city needed to do more.

Panhandlers downtown often hold signs declaring they are homeless, but Ballard said studies by the Coalition for Homeless Intervention and Prevention found that almost none of them really were homeless.

Panhandling cost the city about $6.3 million in visitor spending annually, according to the mayor's office, because it turns off tourists and convention-goers.


  • investigate
    And I meant to add, is there no reporter wanting a Pulitzer who might infiltrate the panhandling and write about this? Is this truly a scam by individuals - or an organized scam? Could an investigative reporter follow the panhandlers and tell us what their situation truly is. I think we have ideas or assumptions, but don't think anyone has ever really documented.
  • complicated issue
    I don't think there is an easy answer and certainly no one answer or all. I'm fine with the guy playing saxophone or banging on the drums, and okay with the 'occasional' panhandler of someone maybe truly needing help. I'm not too thrilled about seeing the same guys on the same corner all the time where they are there all day. Don't we have loitering laws or is that too 1930's? I don't think roadside panhandling should be allowed on the corners, but then that messes up the charities that use this technique doesn't it? Perhaps get a 24 or 48 hour license for this activity?
  • Generalizing
    The city has to grow up. When does the laziness of a panhandler become a larger nuisance than the irresponsibility of police officer or politician? It takes all kinds to make up a community, particularly a developing one such as Indy. I've lived in Indy a long time, but now I live in Las Vegas. Yes, there are homeless everywhere. I have yet to notice the city's tourism business hurting from panhandling, even though they have tried to kick them out. Several comments here are Midwest mentality. I'm all for having ordinances, just not ultimatums.
  • Regulate!
    I don't live in Indy, but I have family there. Fort Wayne has some of the same problem. I find it as maddening as most of the contributors here. Chris: Constitutionally this is commercial speech, not political, so it can be reasonably regulated. Presently, it is too easy for them to get away with the fraud. The ultimate resolution is to educate the public that this is all a scam, so that the easy money dries up. But that is a tough job to get everyone on board.
  • my experience
    I work downtown. I have clients in from larger cities (including DC) who comment on the abundance of panhandlers in Indianapolis compared to their own city. I have brought my children downtown for dinner. We have had to dodge the panhandlers blocking the sidewalk including stepping around someone passed out (who wet himself) on the city sidewalk. I have had panhandlers come up and knock on my car window at 29th and Meridian. I am not without sympathy for the downtrodden. I do plenty of volunteer work in that area. But, from my time over the years in Indianapolis and in particular, downtown, the aggressiveness and proliferation of panhandlers seems to be increasing.
  • Show me a 1040-EZ
    If a "panhandler" can show me three things, I'll give him/her $10.00: 1) Solicitation Permit of some type 2) Valid Indiana I.D. 3) A 1040-EZ in the name of the valid I.D. Some of these bums gross $100s a day.
  • Both ends against middle
    Easy to pick on these sidewalk nobodies. Yet who will stand up to neocons intent on shoving America into a new war in the Mideast or now a renewed conflict with Russia? That will pick our pockets of another trillion yet were still afraid to criticize Zionist war-mongers. Lets be honest, the ACLU are just interested in disrupting society and ginning up phony conflicts like this. Keeps the heat off their counterparts on the right up to the mischief stated above.
  • But seriously though
    We do have a HUGE panhandling problem in the City. I have never seen so many beggars in the downtown of a major city, it's ridiculous. Especially during major events and on weekends. And that doesn't even count the freeway "homeless" around the beltway that take shifts every few hours. Ship em off to New York City...plenty of tourists in that town.
  • Charge for a permit.
    I agree with other comments here. All people running a business should be required to purchase a permit to operate. The business should be subject to safety & cleanliness inspections to protect it's potential customers.
  • Bookem is on to something
    Agreed. They would go away if people stopped enabling them. Though I am not annoyed as many on here are, and just go about my business and ignore them, I do see them smoking, drinking Starbucks (which may be donated), and I would work at Arby's or McD's before I asked complete strangers for money all day, but I quite like the idea of standing next to hem with a sign that says to donate to a charity instead.
  • The other side
    Individuals looking for handouts on the street are an uncomfortable reminder to those of us who can afford to frequent the high end restaurants and stores in downtown Indianapolis that not everyone is so fortunate. They are Americans too and may be demeaning themselves as the only way they know to survive, or they may be taking advantage of the fact that there are so many wealthy pedestrians who are willing to give a hand up to others who appear less fortunate. We should be careful about talking about them as a group to be dismissed unless we have truly gotten to know their individual situations. It is more comfortable to walk by a panhandler without making eye contact than it is to actually engage him/her in a conversation or even provide a friendly greeting. To round them up and "dump" them out of sight will improve the view for those of us that remain, but at what cost in human dignity and compassion?
  • Pests
    Just like pigeons and rats, if you keep feeding them, they will keep coming back. Since free speech works both ways, get volunteers to stand next to each one of these people with their own sign that says something like "Don't contribute to the panhandling problem, donate to (name a charity here, i.e. Wheeler Mission) to make a real difference".
  • Compared to what?
    Do you really think that many business owners and/or convention organizers make a decision based on the number of panhandlers in downtown Indianapolis? Where are you comparing the panhandlers to? Shelbyville? If you go around to any other major city in the United States you will find they have the exact same issue. I'm not saying I agree with allowing them to be there - I dislike them as much as the next person - but it doesn't make any sense to act like Indianapolis is unique in this issue. When you think that the NCAA Regionals brought $20M+ to the city over 1 weekend, the city losing out on $6.3M over the course of a year doesn't seem that bad. Just government trying to quantify something that can't be quantified.
  • ACLU support anti-abortion?
    Funny how the ACLU will help scam artist on the street but will not support God loving people who pray and try to help women that are the victim of the worst know war on women - ABORTION and Liberal women "advocacy" groups!
  • high profile effort
    I wish the mayor would have "high profile efforts" for things such as reducing the murder rate, fixing potholes in democratic council districts, flushing out the rampant corruption in his administration, etc.
  • C. Roger Csee
    You really think more money and more police will stop the murders in Indy? More Dads and less baby mommas is the only way to help this escalating problem
  • Bum Scum
    these losers need to be banned from the city. throw them in a field to live. they CHOOSE this lifestyle! I live downtown, and trust me....all of these bums are just lazy. i'm sick and tired of going to eat at a nice place only to be bothered going in and out of it. it gets disgusting!!! notice next time how they all have cell phones and cigarettes. its their choice. I wish the city would just get rid of them for good! it makes our city look disgusting.
  • Taxes
    Perhaps the way to go after these people is to look at tax evasion?!? I highly doubt they are paying any tax.
  • Mayor's Priorities
    So Mayor Marine says Indy loses $6.3 million a year due to panhandlers! I wonder how much we lose every year due to all the murders because Mayor Marine thinks cricket stadiums are more important than police?
    • Costing Us Money
      The bottom line is that these sidewalk entrepreneurs cost the city money. When a meeting planner or someone considering moving a business to our city walks the streets and sees them littered with folks asking for handouts it leads to a feeling that our generally clean and safe downtown is anything but that. Very disappointing.
    • Let the market speak
      Laws aren't going to fix the problem. Don't give them money. Use your free speech next to them and expose them. If they can't make money,they will leave. Run an advertising campaign against supporting pan handlers. Put dropboxes down town where the community can donate to a shelter or soup kitchen so they feel they are supporting the poor versus encouraging panhandling.
    • Thanks ACLU
      Again, the ACLU defends a group like child molesters and these bums. Why do we fill our courts with a case like this? The bums in our city are not poor, they're running a scam and they just ran one on the ACLU. Thank you Mayor for trying to make Indy a model city.
    • Scam artists
      The pandhandlers should be charged with trying to obtain money fraudulently. Is there ANYONE who thinks they are truly needy people? Give me a break. They drive away at the end of the day in a nice car - usung their iphones. The police should pick one out every day to investigate and charge. That might get these totally annoying hustlers off the streets.
    • not a right
      They are running a business on the sidewalk, it really is that simple. Cities should be allowed to regulated business activities on their sidewalk, be it a begger, scalper, musician or hotdog cart. That being said, we shouldn't try to ignore and push away those truly in need, they need our help.
      • It is Following the Constitution
        Chesterfield, we have something called the First Amendment in the United States. The government cannot limit speech simply because some people might find it annoying. It is not illegal to be poor, it is not illegal to be a "vagrant," and it is not illegal to ask others for money. You are free to ignore individuals who beg as you pass by (or help them, as you see fit) and simply go enjoy your dinner--most people living in cities manage to do this quite well.
      • How is this an improvement?
        So in other words, the city will be doing nothing at all? Based on my understanding of this article, I will still need to push through a throng of vagrants to get into or out of St. Elmo's, Oceanaire, Ruth's Chris, etc. The tourists and business travelers will be thrilled.

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