Public urged to give money to charity not people who beg

The council aims to reduce begging while getting vulnerable people the support available to them.
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A man in a dark jacket and grey hooded top, with the hood up, sits on the floor, on a Newcastle Street, with a cup in front of him, begging.

Residents and visitors to Newcastle are being encouraged not to give money to people who beg, but instead donate to charities that provide meaningful support to those in need.

Shoppers can give hundreds of pounds a day to those who beg in the belief they are helping people who are hungry or homeless.

However, the public has been urged to be aware that not everyone begging on the streets is homeless or in need.

Some people are known to travel into the city centre with sleeping bags and old clothes to appear homeless when they actually have accommodation or have been offered a placement.

Begging can put people at serious risk of exploitation, where they may continue to consume alcohol and illicit substances rather than engage with the services that are trying to help them.

This can lead to issues of drug consumption, intoxication, anti-social behaviour and violence in public places, which can put themselves and the public at risk.

Cllr Paula Maines, Cabinet member for a Resilient City at Newcastle City Council, said: “We are committed to working with partners to provide a range of services for people who have social and complex needs.

“But what we will not tolerate is people who engage in aggressive begging, intimidate residents and visitors and cause disruption in our communities.

“We understand it is very emotive seeing someone who appears to be vulnerable on the streets and it is only human nature to want to help, but it is important the public are aware of who they are giving their money to and what is really happening once they do.

“By urging the public to donate to charities, we want to encourage people to move away from begging activities in the city and instead engage with the support services available to them.

“Donating money to charities will ensure that your money is going to good causes which can make a positive difference to people’s lives.”

Chief Inspector David Wheeler, of Northumbria Police, said: “This is a fantastic initiative from Newcastle City Council and one we are fully supportive of. 

“Members of the public looking to kindly donate to this cause can be assured that their money will go towards providing important practical support to those who need it. 

“Aggressive begging, which often leaves people feeling intimidated, is something that no-one should have to put up with.

“Anyone who experiences such incidents should notify us immediately so that we can take the appropriate action, using all of the powers at our disposal.”  

Tariq Albassam, Director of Operations, at NE1 Ltd, the Business Improvement District Company for Newcastle City Centre said: "We take the issue of homelessness in Newcastle extremely seriously and want to ensure that help, including public donations, gets to the most vulnerable.

“We know that the majority of beggars on the streets of the city are not genuinely homeless. We know this because our Street Rangers engage with them every single day.

“Unfortunately giving money to beggars often feeds addiction, anti-social behaviour and even, organised crime, not the hungry and homeless.

“We have some fantastic charities working with the city’s most vulnerable and we urge anyone who wants to help to give to these charities and not to beggars.

“We hope this initiative will encourage people to support official charities and help keep the city safe and welcoming for all.”

How you can help rough sleepers

The Council provides or commissions a range of specialist services to respond to rough sleeping including a Rough Sleeping Coordinator, Changing Lives’ Outreach Team that goes out 365 days a year, GP outreach, and a Multiagency Rough Sleeping Drug and Alcohol Team, including two Physical Health Nurses, a Clinical Lead Mental Health and a Clinical Lead Drug and Alcohol.

This is in addition to commissioning or providing 760 units of specialist homeless accommodation.

If you want to alert the outreach team to someone sleeping rough you can email roughsleeping@newcastle.gov.uk.

This is not an emergency response and if you have genuine concerns about the immediate health or welfare of someone you should contact the emergency services. 

For more information on the services provided to rough sleepers, visit www.newcastle.gov.uk/services/housing/housing-advice-and-homelessness/what-do-if-you-see-someone-sleeping-rough.

For more information on drugs and alcohol services in the city, visit www.newcastle.gov.uk/services/public-health-wellbeing-and-leisure/public-health-services/drugs-and-alcohol