Homelessness and Panhandling

Homelessness is a national issue, affecting every community in America, including the Town of Fountain Hills. According to www.endhomelessness.org, seventeen out of every 10,000 people in the United States were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2019 during HUD’s Annual Point-in-Time Count. These 567,715 people represent a cross-section of America. They are associated with every region of the country, family status, gender category, and racial/ethnic group. 

There is an alarming rise in the number of people experiencing homelessness in our region due to higher eviction rates resulting from loss of employment and resources in the COVID19 pandemic economy. Unfortunately, some people have found themselves without shelter or adequate resources to keep their homes. There is much collaboration and work being done across the region to end homelessness. Visit this web page to learn more about the regional homelessness strategies being developed in our area and resources available to those working on homelessness issues and resolution.

The Town of Fountain Hills is participating in identifying ways to address homelessness and panhandling on a regional basis through the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG). Through MAG, towns and cities work diligently to find meaningful and respectful solutions to this epidemic. Learn more about programs being developed and implemented across our region at their Homelessness webpage.

LEGAL INFORMATION RELATING TO HOMELESSNESS AND PANHANDLING
While there are many laws that potentially impact those who are experiencing homelessness, being homeless is not a crime. Along with homelessness, panhandling by itself is also not a crime. The courts have consistently ruled that panhandling or begging for money is a protected activity under the First Amendment as long as it is done on public property where members of the public are generally entitled to be such as public sidewalks and parks. Panhandlers do not have a right to beg on private property unless granted permission by the private property owners. Private property owners have a right to trespass both panhandlers and people experiencing homelessness from their properties. Panhandlers on public property may not disturb the peace, obstruct public thoroughfares, litter or threaten passersby while engaging in panhandling.

Finally, not all panhandlers are homeless and not all people experiencing homelessness are engaged in panhandling.MAG (Maricopa Association of Governments) FAQ on Homelessness.

How You Can Help

Many people do not realize that donating to agencies dedicated to helping people in need such as churches, shelters and food banks may be a better way to help the homeless versus providing individual contributions. Below are links to just a few of the agencies that you may consider:

Central Arizona Shelter Services

Community Bridges - Behavioral Healthcare

Family Promise - Family Homelessness

Salvation Army

St. Vincent DePaul

UMOM Regional Homelessness Shelter

ELAINE - Homeless and underserved healthcare transportation services

Fountain Hills Extended Hands Food Bank