Drivers Notice Rise In Panhandlers Throughout River Valley & NWA

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Drivers in the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas are reporting an increase in panhandlers along roadsides.

Sgt. Daniel Grubbs with the Fort Smith Police Department said panhandlers are within their rights as long as they are on public property. If they are on private property, an owner can tell a panhandler to leave and police can also make an arrest for disorderly conduct if he or she is blocking traffic or causing issues for drivers.

Those at the police department have received some reports of panhandlers threatening others, which can potentially lead to a terroristic threatening arrest, Grubbs explained.

"It's just a problem," Veteran Stuart Rowland of Van Buren said.

Rowland continued and said he takes pride in being a veteran and is not afraid to ask panhandlers claiming to be veterans what unit they served in.

"Their sign would say they're a disabled veteran and anything would help... and when I asked about his unit, he would just look at me and shout 'the army.' That's not the (proper) response if you have been in the military," Rowland explained.

Grubbs said that's not unusual.

"We have found there's a lot of false motives," he said. "We have actually followed some of them to houses and cars."

There are non-profit organizations in the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas that offer help to those in need.

"We have many avenues for them to get assistance, but doing it on a street corner is not the answer," Grubbs added.

The Salvation Army has some suggestions if you are approached by a panhandler.

"The most helpful thing and powerful thing you can do for someone is to give them information on how they can help themselves," Becky Gentry, Social Services Director at Salvation Army in Fort Smith said. "If they're hungry, you can give them food, but I really wouldn't suggest giving them any money."

The Salvation Army in Fort Smith offers breakfast and dinner everyday of the week. They also offer clothing and utility assistance.

Grubbs has one more piece of advice.

He said, "You just have to be safe. You don't know who these people are."

To learn more about the help provided at the Salvation Army in Fort Smith, click here. For additional information about the help provided at the Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas, click here.


  • Randy Ingle

    We have given a few bucks now and then when it looks like they really have hard times. Just like the video shows we once saw a couple get out of a pretty decent car with cell phones and start panhandling.

  • Trevor Smithson

    Yeah I’m gonna keep giving them money. Last time was a homeless coupe, their van was stuffed with all their possessions. Salvation Army offers little more than bible thumping and boot strap sermons.

  • Michael Bluford

    Yesterday, I actually witnessed this Ass park a Car near the Hampton Inn near Starbucks on Rogers Avenue. As He approached the Off-Ramp, He pulled His Hat and Cardboard Sign from underneath His Shirt.

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