What is the Real Change initiative?

As a response to residents, business owners and guests' concerns over an increase in aggressive panhandling, leadership from Charlotte's human services non-profits came together to find a way to get help to those individuals.

Real Change is an initiative that asks people not to give money to panhandlers. It also directs panhandlers or those in crisis to call 211, or to seek help from partnered human services organizations, such as Charlotte Rescue MissionMen's ShelterSalvation Army, Urban Ministry Center, and United Way of the Central Carolinas. At the same time, trained counselors are on the streets connecting with people in crisis, speaking with them and making sure they know where they can find help.


How can I help?

Connect with partnered organizations working on this initiative and ask how you can help.

Do not give money to panhandlers.


Shouldn’t I just give?

No, because your money will not end someone’s crisis. Pocket change is likely to extend that person’s period of crisis by preventing them from seeking the professional support they need. When someone in crisis visits a human services organization for lunch, they will get more than food. Food becomes the way to start a conversation and form a relationship that goes beyond treating immediate needs and towards finding long-term solutions. 


What is aggressive/illegal panhandling?

Per Charlotte’s Municipal Code illegal panhandling includes:

(a) Forcing oneself upon the company of another means:

(1) Continuing to solicit in close proximity to the person addressed after the person to whom the solicitation is directed has made a negative response, either verbally, by physical sign, by attempting to leave the presence of the person soliciting, or by other negative indication;

(2) Blocking the passage of the person solicited; or

(3) Otherwise engaging in conduct that could reasonably be construed as intending to compel or force a person to accede to a solicitation.


Additionally, there are seven defined prohibited acts related to panhandling including:

(b) Prohibited acts. It shall be unlawful for any person to beg, solicit or panhandle on a public sidewalk, public right of way or within a public park owned by the city:

(1) By accosting another, or by forcing oneself upon the company of another;

(2) Within 20 feet of the entrance to any financial institution or any automated teller machine, regardless of whether or not such automated teller machine is located at or near a financial institution;

(3) Within 20 feet of any outdoor dining area or outdoor merchandise area, provided such areas are in active use at the time;

(4) Within 20 feet of any transit stop or taxi stand;

(5) While the person being solicited is standing in line waiting to be admitted to a commercial establishment;

(6) By touching the person being solicited without that person's consent; or

(7) After dark by means of verbal communication.

(c) Public transportation vehicle. It shall be unlawful for any person to beg, solicit or panhandle on a public transportation vehicle.

(d) Penalty. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor as provided in G.S. 14-4 and, upon conviction, shall be subject to a maximum fine of $500.00, or imprisonment, or both.

(Ord. No. 2457, § 1, 11-24-2003)