Be A Part of the Long-Term Solution to Panhandling

Posted Feb 4th, 2019 in Feat of the Week


In an ideal world, everyone should have access to food, water, clothing, shelter and health care. When people fall on hard times, some or all of these needs may not be met which can lead to an increase in panhandling.

Seeking monetary aid from people is a legal activity protected by the First Amendment unless it is carried out in an aggressive manner. If you are fortunate to have all your basic needs met, feeling compassion toward panhandlers is understandable, especially when it’s freezing cold outside. Since the New Year, the Downtown Wilmington Ambassadors have encountered an increase in panhandling during their daily patrols and want you to know it’s okay to say, “No” to panhandlers.

Giving money directly to panhandlers may seem like a quick fix but it is a bad long-term approach because it encourages the activity to continue. A better solution is to give money to agencies equipped to help people in need.

Because panhandling was highlighted as an important issue when the Municipal Services District (MSD) was formed in Downtown Wilmington in 2017, we launched a program known as Have a Heart, Give Smart to address this concern. The program encourages people who want to help to donate directly to the local charitable organizations instead of to individuals.

Addresses and contact information for nearby charitable organizations that can help with food, shelter, addiction or mental health issues are listed on Wilmington’s "street sheet." The GiveSmartWilmington.org website provides details of this program and offers advice on how to respond to panhandlers. Donations can be made through a PayPal link on the website or by texting “Heart” to 910.817.4301.

One of the roles of the Ambassadors is to help people feel safe coming downtown. One of the ways they do this is by promoting this initiative. Support Have a Heart, Give Smart and you will be part of the long-term solution.

Note: 100% of all contributions will be donated to local agencies less third-party financial transaction fees.