Campaign launched to stop handouts to ‘opportunist’ beggars in Stevenage

Robert Broom, cllr Shephall, pictured centre, with John Mead, cllr, Shephall, Tara Adams-Cook, antis

Robert Broom, cllr Shephall, pictured centre, with John Mead, cllr, Shephall, Tara Adams-Cook, antisocial-behaviour officer and Debbie Barker, Stevenage council community safety officer - Credit: Archant

The public are being urged not to give money to “opportunist” street beggars who use handouts to buy drugs and alcohol.

Stevenage Borough Council has launched a Killing with Kindess campaign, aimed at encouraging people to donate to homeless charities rather than give to people begging on the streets.

The council says it has evidence that some beggars maintain a steady income through handouts, making it difficult to distinguish them from those genuinely in need.

Councillor Richard Henry, responsible for safer communities, older people and health at SBC, said: “Our campaign is aimed at addressing the issues that lead to begging and educating the public about them. We want to direct people to the support and organisations that can help them, and encourage members of the public who do want to help to support local homeless charities instead.”

Barbara Howard, director of homeless charity Stevenage Haven, said: “We provide emergency shelter to those who are genuinely in need of a roof over their heads.

“We have tried reaching out to a number of people who beg, particularly at the railway station, but they are not interested because we cannot facilitate their needs for drugs or alcohol. It is a very sorry sight but we can only do so much.”

Inspector Simon Tabert, who heads up the Stevenage Safer Neighbourhood Team at Herts Constabulary, said: “We often receive calls relating to issues around begging and we are fully aware of the sensitivities involved when responding to incidents of this nature and will always try to help the individuals concerned.

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“However there are a few people who persistently beg on the streets of Stevenage, and some are opportunists who choose to do this because they can make money to buy drugs and alcohol. While the public are at liberty to make their own decisions, I would encourage them to donate to an appropriate charity rather than handing money directly to a beggar.”

Anyone who wants to report incidents of begging should contact police on non-emergency number 101.