The 700 Club, Darlington Borough Council and Durham Constabulary have teamed up to launch a new campaign to tackle begging in the town.
The “Have a Heart, Give Smart” campaign has been set up to encourage members of the public to give to charity, rather than to those who beg.
There are a number of beggars on the streets of Darlington, but rarely are any of them genuinely homeless.
A number are also known to come from other parts of the region to take advantage of what has become a lucrative trade, often to feed drug or alcohol dependencies.
To raise awareness of this issue, posters will be put up in begging hotspots around the town with the message: “Have a heart, give smart’.”
John Elliston, from the 700 Club, explained: “People beg for a variety of reasons and our experience in Darlington is that homelessness is rarely the driver, while begging to feed an addiction is common.
“Others beg to pay rent or bills, and sadly some are motivated by greed.”
He continued: “However, giving money to those who beg does nothing to tackle the problems they may be facing, and in some cases that act of kindness can prove fatal.
“So we’re urging people not to give to individuals on the street, and to do something more positive by supporting the agencies that are working together to help them.”
Councillor Helen Crumbie, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “Our Housing Options Team and community safety staff work in close partnership with voluntary agencies and as a result we know that no-one needs to be on the street in Darlington.
“If someone does find themselves in that position, the help is there.
“I understand that people want to help those who they see struggling in difficult conditions, but handing money to someone begging is not the way to do that.
“If you do want to help financially, remember the ‘Have a heart, give smart’ campaign and donate to a relevant charity.”
Inspector Chris Knox, from Durham Constabulary, said: “It is human nature to want to help and think that by giving money to beggars you are showing compassion to those who appear to be living on the street.
“But the stark reality is that your compassion does more harm than good.
“Many of those who beg have drug or alcohol dependencies – your money is funding that habit, undermining professional services already being provided.
“Every beggar in Darlington is known and is spoken to regularly by either ourselves, the local authority or integrated voluntary agencies.
“We have the services to support those who are sleeping rough and in need.”
He added: “Through this campaign, we aim to explain to people that giving money to those who beg is not the best way to help them.
“If people wish to give, they should donate to a charity like the 700 Club instead. That way they can be sure their money will directly, and properly help those who need it.”
For more information about the 700 Club and how to donate, visit their website.
If you are homeless, or worried about someone who is, call Darlington Borough Council on 01325 405333 (from Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm) or Streetlink on 0300 500 0914.
Further details about homelessness in Darlington can be found on the Darlington Borough Council website.
Source: Darlington Borough Council