A new approach to tackle street sleepers and begging in Harrogate launches today (28 October 2019).
The Harrogate Street Aid project is a joint initiative involving the council, North Yorkshire Police and Harrogate Homeless Project.
The aim is to encourage people to donate directly to a central fund rather than give their money to the street beggars themselves.
Instead, donations will be used to make real change for individuals who are, or have been, street sleepers.
M&S Harrogate on Oxford Street is supporting the Street Aid project and has agreed to the installation of a contactless debit/credit card terminal in its store window.
The technology enables people to donate a suggested £3 quickly and easily with a short tap of their credit card against the clearly marked Harrogate Street Aid contactless terminal.
It is hoped a network of terminals will grow in the coming months and years as other retailers and businesses consider hosting one in their own premises.
People can also donate via www.harrogatestreetaid.co.uk.
The initiative is being administered by Two Ridings Community Foundation which already works with good causes across the district.
Organisations supporting the homeless will be invited to apply for grants of up to £500 to assist individuals to get off the streets, and, keep them off.
The Harrogate Street Aid working group has drawn on the experience of councils in York, Nottingham, London, Oxford and Cambridge where there are similar issues with street sleepers and begging.
A study, carried out earlier this year, found the number of people visibly begging or sleeping on the street 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.
Councillor Mike Chambers, cabinet member for safer communities and housing, said:
Harrogate Street Aid is about making a real change to people who find themselves on the street and I am delighted to be at today’s launch.
We recognise that begging and street sleeping has been more visible in Harrogate in recent months and this project is a positive way of tackling this challenging and delicate issue.
Money kindly donated by the public will help vulnerable people to get the support they need to turn a corner.
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, it may actually keep them on the street.
Instead, donations will create a fund to provide the kind of support not offered by other grants such as training courses and mental health provision.
Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire police, fire and crime commissioner, said:
I am a huge admirer of the Harrogate Homeless Project and am delighted to be able to support this new project via my community fund.
It’s great that the public want to help homeless people, but sometimes giving them cash can cause further problems, rather than the good intended.
We also need to do the very best we can to help the homeless rebuild their lives over the longer term, which is the aim of this programme.
I’d like to thank Marks & Spencer for its support in providing the first card machine in its store, which allows people to donate a suggested £3 quickly and easily.
I also very much hope that this is the start of things to come and more shops and outlets will take up the cause.
So, please do tap the terminal to give £3.00, as it could have a life changing effect.
Liz Hancock, chief executive, Harrogate Homeless Project, said:
We are hopeful that the new Street Aid initiative will provide members of the public with a meaningful way to help those who are begging on the streets.
The funds raised will be available for support agencies such as HHP to apply for specific grants that can turn someone’s life around.
Giving cash to people begging can unfortunately just help people maintain street lifestyles.
By giving to Street Aid, more meaningful support can be given, that will create lasting change for individuals.
Mark Robson, store manager, M&S Harrogate, said:
This a fantastic initiative in our town and I’m really excited that M&S Harrogate is the first location for the digital contactless donation terminal.
We urge shoppers to come over to the terminal and donate to this really worthwhile cause if they can.