Panhandling: What Can Be Done to Help?

Panhandling can be found in most busy communities, generating many questions and complaints from residents. While we may get a good feeling by providing money to a panhandler, the reality is that panhandlers who are truly in need require more resources than small donations of money.

The good news is that Lake 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 panhandlers.

Why? Because giving money to panhandlers encourages more panhandling. Donations of cash will not help solve the underlying reasons why someone panhandles. Here are some important things to know about Gurnee’s approach to this issue:

What Are the Laws?

  • Asking for money is a protected act under the First Amendment.
  • Asking for money in public areas, including the entrances to parking lots, is not a violation of law.
  • Stepping into the roadway to accept money is not allowed and is a violation of Sec. 50-38 of the Gurnee Municipal Code. 
  • A property owner may ask a panhandler to leave their private property (i.e. if they are in a parking lot or are not in the right-of-way). If they do not leave upon request, they are trespassing. 
  • The Village of Gurnee monitors legal developments related to panhandling.

What About Public Safety?

  • Our police officers will intervene when panhandlers commit traffic offenses or engage in criminal activity.
  • If you witness a panhandler breaking the law, contact the Gurnee Police Department. The emergency number is 9-1-1 and the non-emergency number is (847) 599-7000.
  • 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 refer panhandlers they encounter to available county social services, such as PADS Lake County, but cannot force them to receive services.
  • If a law is broken, a ticket will be issued.

Who Are Panhandlers?

  • Not all panhandlers are homeless, but they may be in need of other critical services.
  • Many of the stories panhandlers use to solicit money are not true.
  • Some panhandlers operate as part of organized, professional panhandling rings.

What Can You Do?

  • Refer panhandlers – or anyone you see who may be in need – to United Way Lake County’s 211 program. They have a wide-range of services and housing resources. They can dial 2-1-1 at any time to connect with services that help those in need.
  • You can also contact PADs Lake County directly at (847) 616-5557. PADs will send one of their Outreach Staff to try and engage them and determine what services may be needed.
  • Consider making a donation or volunteering for United Way’s 2-1-1 Lake County, which is dedicated to assisting Lake County residents in need.