Begging (or panhandling) is to request a donation in a supplicating manner. Beggars are commonly found in public places such as street corners or public transport, where they request money, most commonly in the form of spare change. They may use cups, boxes or hats to collect the donations.
There are few current techniques for begging which have not been used for hundreds of years, or are not based on older techniques, adapted to modern technology. Beggars rarely recorded their techniques, and often used to disguise their own communication. What is known of them is largely from records of law enforcement, penitential or rogue literature. From early modern England the best examples are Thomas Harman, and Robert Greene in his coney-catching pamphlets. There is no reason to suppose that what he recorded was new. There are similar writers for many European countries in the early modern period.
In some countries begging is much more tolerated and in certain cases encouraged. In many, perhaps most, traditional religions, it is considered that a person who gives alms to a worthy beggar, such as a spiritual seeker, gains religious merit.
Many religious orders adhere to a mendicant way of life, including the Catholic mendicant orders, Hindu ascetics, some dervishes of Sufi Islam, and the monastic orders of Buddhism. In the Catholic Church, followers of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic became known as mendicants, as they would beg for food while they preached to the villages.
In traditional Christianity, the rich were encouraged to serve the poor.
In many Hindu traditions, spiritual seekers, known as sadhus, beg for food. This is because fruitive activity, such as farming or shopkeeping, is regarded as a materialistic distraction from the search for moksha, or spiritual liberation. Begging, on the other hand, promotes humility and gratitude, not only towards the individuals who are giving food, but towards the Universe in general. This helps the sadhu attain a state of bliss or samādhi.
In traditional Shaivite Hinduism , old men, having lived a full life as a householder in the world, frequently give up materialistic possessions and become wandering ascetic mendicants (sadhus), spending their last months or years seeking spiritual enlightenment. Villagers gain religious merit by giving food and other necessities to these ascetics.
In Buddhism, monks and nuns traditionally live by begging for alms, as did the historical Gautama Buddha himself. This is, among other reasons, so that lay people can gain religious merit by giving food, medicines, and other essential items to the monks. The monks seldom need to plead for food; in villages and towns throughout modern Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and other Buddhist countries, householders can often be found at dawn every morning streaming down the road to the local temple to give food to the monks. In East Asia, monks and nuns were expected to farm or work for returns to feed themselves up.
There is also a long traditional of rather less spiritual beggars, in India and elsewhere, who are simply begging as a means to obtain material wealth. Some are even beggars for generations, and continue their family tradition of begging. A few beggars in the subcontinent even have sizable wealth, which they accumulate by "employing" other, newer beggars. They can claim to have territories, and then may engage in verbal and physical abuse of encroaching beggars.
The definition of so called "Aggressive panhandling" may vary in time and space. In the USA, aggressive panhandling generally involves the solicitation of donations in an intimidating or intrusive manner. Examples may include:
The province of Ontario introduced its Safe Streets Act in 1999 to restrict specific kinds of begging, particularly certain narrowly-defined cases of "aggressive" or abusive panhandling. In 2001 this law survived a court challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The law was further upheld by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in January 2007.
One response to the anti-panhandling laws which were passed was the creation of the Ottawa Panhandlers Union which fights for the political rights of panhandlers. The union is a shop of the Industrial Workers of the World.
In many larger cities, such as Chicago, Illinois, panhandling has been banned. In Chicago, there are a number of signs at regular intervals reminding people that peddling is banned. This rarely dissuades the beggar, and the constitutionality of such bans has not been firmly established by case law. In 2004, the city of Orlando, Florida passed an ordinance (Orlando Municipal Code section 43.86) requiring panhandlers to obtain a permit from the municipal police department. The ordinance further makes it a crime to panhandle in the commercial core of downtown Orlando, as well as within 50 feet (15 m) of any bank or automated teller machine. It is also considered a crime in Orlando for panhandlers to make false or untrue statements, or to disguise themselves, to solicit money, and to use money obtained for a claim of a specific purpose (e.g. food) to be spent on anything else (e.g. drugs). The potential for these latter restrictions to be enforced is minimal.
In Santa Cruz, CA, there are regulations for panhandlers on where they can and cannot "Spange". For example, they must be a certain distance away from the door of any business.
In parts of San Francisco, CA, aggressive panhandling is prohibited.
However, vagrancy laws, which are sometimes proposed to curb panhandlers, have been outlawed in the US, by and large, since the 1970s. It is not a crime to be poor or "vagrant."
Begging is illegal under the Vagrancy Act of 1824. However it does not carry a jail sentence and is not well enforced in many cities , although since the Act applies in all public places it is enforced more frequently on public transport.
In Europe, women from the poorer countries of the continent are sometimes forced by organized gangs to beg in cities in Western Europe such as Barcelona, the proceeds being collected by the gangs.
Begging is illegal under the Article 1, 22 of Minor Offense Law. Buddhist monks in Japan may remain in their monasteries, only appearing in public when begging for alms. Otherwise, street begging is generally not practiced, even by that nation's estimated 24,000 homeless people.
A common criticism of beggars is that they spend money received on irresponsible or unnecessary items, particularly on drugs, alcohol or tobacco. This is often stated as a reason for not giving money to panhandlers. Also, in many communities in developed countries, various state and private charitable social services may be available such as welfare, soup kitchens and homeless shelters that may reduce any survival need for begging.
A 2002 study of 54 panhandlers in Toronto reported that of a median monthly income of $638 Canadian dollars (CAD), those interviewed spent a median of $200 CAD on food and $192 CAD on alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs, according to Income and spending patterns among panhandlers, by Rohit Bose and Stephen W. Hwang. The Fraser Institute criticized this study citing problems with potential exclusion of lucrative forms of begging and the unreliability of reports from the panhandlers who were polled in the Bose/Hwang study.
In North America, panhandling money is widely reported to support substance abuse and other addictions. For example, outreach workers in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, surveyed that city's panhandling community and determined that approximately three-quarters use donated money to buy tobacco products while two-thirds buy solvents or alcohol. In Midtown Manhattan, one outreach worker anecdotally commented to the New York Times that substance abuse accounts for 90 percent of panhandling funds.
Because of this, some advise those wishing to give to beggars to give gift cards or vouchers for food or services, and not cash. Some shelters also offer business cards with information on the shelter's location and services, which can be given in lieu of cash.
Begging like other activities has also adapted to the net taking on an "e-panhandling" role. Instead of begging on the streets, cyber panhandlers set up a website where they "beg" for money. Later variants tried to request money for their personal needs that were beyond their financial ability with some success. Begging has also become commonplace in the chatrooms of various gambling and poker websites. In poker sites, one will frequently see someone claiming that they are so good at the game that if someone lends $10, that it will be back to the lender with interest in a very short period of time. These may be desperate gaming addicts who have run dry, or they may not gamble at all and simply withdraw the money for their own use. Players of online games may beg for in-game currency, such as Gold in MMOs or Lindens in Second Life, which can be converted to real world currency.
This article is a travel topic.
When traveling, you will without a doubt come across people asking for money. After all, poor people everywhere will reason that anyone who can afford to travel – by definition – has money to spare. Even a "budget" traveler may be much richer than most local people in some places; according to UN statistics more than a billion people live on less than a euro a day.
Consider giving generously if you want to, but remember a few points.
Some people who beg are doing so out of desperation. Most, however, are not desperate at all; begging is their chosen profession and they make very good money at it by local standards. The truly desperate will not be found begging in most cases. Instead beggars will have their schtick which they have honed over the years (or through adult training for the children) and will have key choke points marked out for themselves where they can make good money. A truly desperate person simply won't have the skills (or the taste for violence) necessary to compete in the begging marketplace that surround the tourist hot-spots and begging out in the bush is a waste of time. Also note that very often, these beggars may be part of a large begging syndicate.
There are also various possibilities to consider instead of giving money to beggars:
Very little of what you spend in many countries will end up in the pockets of local people, especially if you choose to stay in expensive hotel chains. Make an effort to spend some where it will go to the poor. Give the street musicians a few coins, buy some flowers from the hawkers, take a rickshaw or a donkey ride. Pick up some local handicrafts. Play the game; bargain hard and try not to get grossly overcharged, but accept that some people need to make a living off tourists. You are probably going to pay more than a local would; don't worry too much about it.
Make a donation when you visit a church, mosque, or temple. This is a sign of respect for the local religion. In most places, religious organisations (regardless of whatever faults they may have, or whatever theological disagreements you may have with them) do good work among the poor.
If tipping is considered appropriate in the country you are visiting, tip well.
Consider donating time and/or money to a local or global poverty reduction program instead of giving change to individuals. Poverty is a complex social issue and begging is a symptom of a bigger problem. See Making a difference for more on this.
In some cases begging is fairly passive activity and in others it can be more aggressive and intimidating. If you feel threatened, walk away quickly and head for a nearby shop or restaurant. Dressing in a understated manner (to look less affluent or more like a local) may make you less of a "mark" for begging, and treating people with respect may help avoid altercations.
It is not a good idea to give children money as they are often sent out for this purpose by their parents or other adults, which should not be rewarded or encouraged. In less developed countries, orphans or unwanted children may end up forced into begging by mafia-type gangs, who appropriate their takings and give little in return. In some countries such as India it's not unknown for children to be purposely deformed to make them more profitable to their parents/masters. See the movie "Slumdog Millionaire" for some examples of this.
If you are considering giving a small gift such as candy or pens to children, recognize that this can lead to more aggressive behavior, including physical fights with his or her peers over your well-meaning gift.
In Hindu and Buddhist countries giving alms to monks or nuns is an accepted part of the culture, a religious observance for the giver. Note that you should only give them food, as they are not allowed to touch money under any circumstances. In many religions, especially Islam, giving alms to the poor is also a religious obligation. Note that some non-religious people may have co-opted this approach in order to profit from tourist "donations".
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[[File:|thumb|right|200px|Beggar in Minneapolis, Minnesota]] Begging means asking people for money, food, shelter or other things, when one is not able to give anything instead. It is also referred to as sponging, spanging (short for "spare-changing") or (in American English) panhandling.
In larger cities, it is common to see beggars who ask for money, food, or other items. Typically, beggars often beg for spare change equipped with coffee cups, mugs, small boxes, hats, or other items into which monies can be placed and sometimes display signs with messages such as "Help me. I'm homeless."
A 2002 study of 54 panhandlers in Toronto reported that of a median monthly income of $638 CAD, those interviewed spent a median of $200 CAD on food and $192 CAD on alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs . The Fraser Institute, however, criticized this study. They said there were many forms of begging including ones in which good money can be earned. They also said that panhandlers' reports were not reliable 
Because of this, some people say that it would be better to give the beggars gift cards or food/service vouchers, instead of money. Some shelters also offer business cards with information on the shelter's location and services, which can be given instead of cash.
Aggressive panhandling means to ask for donations or help in a threatening manner. This is not mugging, but rather similar and therefore often forbidden by law. Examples include: