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Panhandlers Are Licensed to Beg in Raleigh

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RALEIGH — Hundreds of people beg on the streets every day all across the Triangle, but many people don't know that, in Raleigh, panhandlers are licensed to beg.

A lot of Johnny Miller's pleas go unanswered, but he keeps asking. Miller has been begging on the streets of Raleigh for five years. "It's the only way I know of living. The best way I know of living is what they call 'surviving.'"

Miller is begging officially, and he has the paperwork to prove it -- a permit to beg, issued by the city of Raleigh.

Panhandlers have to register with the city. To quote from the permit, "the holder of this permit is entitled to beg on the streets, sidewalks and other public areas."

You can get the permit to beg from the Raleigh Police Department. Police leaders say that they have issued 57 permits over the past year. According to the ordinance, if you're caught begging without a permit, police can arrest and prosecute you.

Most passers-by are sympathetic to Miller's situation, but confused by his permit.

For Johnny Miller, begging for a living brings in about $20,000 a year.

The permits to beg are issued free of charge. Although Raleigh police cannot pinpoint an arrest of a panhandler who begged without a permit, they say they do check. Photographer: Doug Bricker