Harrogate is looking at a new approach to tackle street sleepers and begging in Harrogate with a contactless payment system.
The majority of beggars on the street are there out of choice and use it as a way to have a supplementary income. Since it was made known that it is estimated a beggar can raise £300 a day, they have even increased.
Although most of the street begging is disingenuous, people still want to help others. The contactless payment allows people to give, but in the knowledge the money will be used in the right way and on those that really need it. It would also act to discourage begging on the street as the direct financial benefits should be reduced.
Harrogate Street Aid would be a joint initiative involving the council, North Yorkshire Police and Harrogate Homeless Project.
The aim would be to encourage people to donate directly to a central fund rather than the street beggars themselves. The money would be used to make real change for individuals who are, or have been, street sleepers.
A study, carried out earlier this year, found the number of visible beggars and street sleepers has been increasing in Harrogate.
Evidence suggests there is a great deal of public sympathy for people who are perceived to be sleeping rough and that the action of the authorities is frequently misunderstood.
Mike Chambers – cabinet member for housing and safer communities – will consider a proposal for a project called ‘Harrogate Street Aid’ next week (9 July 2019).
The Harrogate Street Aid working group has drawn on the experience of councils in York, Nottingham, London and Cambridge who have similar issues.
Councillor Chambers will be asked to approve an approach which has been successful in the city of Cambridge.
This would see a contactless ‘tap’ terminal installed in Harrogate town centre enabling people to donate a suggested £3 in a quick and easy transaction using a debit or credit card.
An online ‘giving page’ would also be set up.
It is proposed the money raised would be administered by Two Ridings Community Foundation which already works with the council.
Organisations supporting the homeless, such as the Harrogate Homeless Project and New Horizons, would be invited to apply for grants of up to £500 to assist individuals to get off the streets, and, keep them off.
Julia Stack, community safety and CCTV manager, Harrogate Borough Council, said:
Harrogate Street Aid has the potential to make a huge difference.
We would use donated loose change to assist vulnerable people to get the support they need to turn a corner.
We recognise that begging and street sleeping is becoming an increasing problem in Harrogate. This is a positive way of tackling this challenging and delicate issue.
We, and our partners, work hard every day to support people who are – or at risk of becoming – homeless.
Despite what people assume, giving a few pounds to a beggar is not going to make real change for that person.
Harrogate Street Aid could make real change for those on the street.
It would create a fund to provide the kind of support not offered by other grants such as training courses and mental health provision.
If approved next week, the project will get underway immediately.