Campaign urging Northampton residents not to give money to beggars considered by councillors

The report looks at ways to tackle homelessness in Northampton
The report looks at ways to tackle homelessness in Northampton

Councillors are set to recommend that a publicity campaign is set up to urge Northampton residents not to donate money to beggars.

Instead, they want people to part with their cash to the town’s housing and homelessness support groups as part of a proposed ‘alternative giving’ scheme.

The recommendation comes from a draft report written up by the borough council’s homelessness scrutiny committee, which has been gathering evidence and witness statements on the issue over the last few months.

The final report will be determined this evening (May 21), but the draft report suggests that a multi-agency publicity campaign is developed to ‘discourage’ members of the public from giving money to people who are begging.

The report states: “There is a need to tell people not to give money to those begging – there is a need to get the message out to the public. From the public’s perspective, they see it as a housing issue.

“There needs to be a social media strategy in place as it was realised that a lot of misinformation can be put on social media.”

But Stan Robertson, whose Project 16:15 scheme delivers breakfasts to homeless people, felt that residents might ‘resent’ being told how to spend their money.

He said: “The council are coming at it with good intentions, but they are not speaking to people at street level.

“This could actually be a waste of money because people are going to give to the homeless if they want to, and they have a right to do what they want with their money. They will resent being told how to spend it.”

The report suggests setting up an ‘alternative giving’ scheme, which would see the council encourage people to donate to a dedicated support service which helps people off the streets. Schemes along this line have been set up in other parts of the country such as in Wolverhampton.

Mr Robertson added: “My view on that depends on how they set it up, and whether it would be a single entity or it would get various other projects and people involved.”

He was however, fully behind a third recommendation in the report, which calls on the council’s cabinet to adopt the Housing First model.

He said: “That would be fantastic, and I’m 100 per cent behind it and you won’t hear a single grumble on that from my team.

“It’s the best solution as it gets people off the street and then looks at the reasons why they got in there.”