City urges caution when confronted by panhandlers

Officials say there could be two to three times the usual number of panhandlers for the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLVI is now 185 days away. And if you're one of those heading downtown for all the festivities, be cautious of those asking for help.

The 2012 Super Bowl will put the worldwide spotlight on Indianapolis and the downtown. One of the downsides is that the huge event is expected to attract an increased number of troublemakers to the city. And advocates for the homeless, along with IMPD, are worried this might harm their efforts to help those "truly" in need.

The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention, or "CHIP," says it expects two to three times the usual people posing or acting as if they're homeless during the Super Bowl.

According to the organization, about 1,500 people are actually homeless each day in Indianapolis. About 100 are out on the streets at night.

CHIP says social outreach groups work daily to engage the homeless, get them the help they need, and get them off the streets. CHIP says city police even created a special unit of full time officers devoted to cause.

CHIP Program Director Michael Hurst says to take the time to consider what kind of help you'd be offering to an apparently homeless person.

"I guess the question you should be asking yourself: 'is what I'm about ready to it going to enable this person to stay where they are?  Or is it going to be an act that helps this person return to self-sufficiency,'" said Hurst.

He says handing the homeless food or money is not the answer.  One way Super Bowl goers can help will be right in front of them in downtown Indy. There are eight yellow boxes around town, on city sidewalks. The donations placed in these go directly to agencies that help the homeless.

City police and advocates for the homeless say they're really not changing the way they deal with the homeless during Super Bowl.

As for panhandlers, those individuals who actually approach you asking for money, CHIP says, typically, these people are not homeless.

CHIP says thanks to increased police enforcement of panhandling laws the number of panhandling arrests has gone down in each of the last four years.