"Loose change feeds problems, it is not a solution."  

Begging is a problematic form of anti-social behaviour that has no place in Darlington. Visitors to the Town Centre, particularly those who are vulnerable, are intimidated by the presence of beggars, and a high proportion of the proceeds generated by the activity ends up sustaining the drugs trade. Those who beg, however, are Darlington citizens, and as such are valued members of our community, to be respected and helped. This is the common starting point of all who are involved in the local response to begging, whether Police, Council Housing Team, Community Safety Partnership, or voluntary agency; we are all concerned to do what is best for the individual.

The problem posed by begging in our Town will only solved if, as a whole community, we work together. We have already had at least one fatality that would have been prevented if the person had not gained money for drugs by begging, and the amounts of money involved (£40-£50 a day), simply piles more damage on lives that are already damaged, reinforcing habits and acting as a disincentive to change. Kindness really can kill, but by working together we can change lives for the better, and help restore the well-being and dignity of all those who beg.

Of course, people beg for different reasons; not all have addiction problems, though the majority do. At the moment of meeting a person wrapped in a sleeping bag, or when hustled at a cash-point, it is hard to know and to walk away. However, be assured that every person begging is spoken to many times each week, offered help, and encouraged away from begging. At the point of writing this piece, no person begging in Darlington is without a home. No-one needs to be on the streets!

Practically speaking, we are asking members of the public to direct their generosity away from the individuals who beg, to the organisations that support them. That is the message of the “Have a Heart Give Smart” campaign that you will see advertised in the run up to Christmas. By directing your generosity in this way, you become part of the solution, challenging and changing anti-social behaviour rather than re-enforcing it.