'Pay by credit card' scheme to tackle Harrogate street begging problem
A new initiative to transform the lives of street beggars in Harrogate by allowing the public to donate by credit card or bank card has been launched today.
The Harrogate Street Aid project is a joint initiative involving Harrogate Borough Council, North Yorkshire Police and local charity Harrogate Homeless Project which aims to encourage people to donate directly to a central fund rather than give their money to the street beggars themselves.
M&S Harrogate on Oxford Street is supporting the Harrogate 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 at the back of M&S on the window of its food hall.
Any money donated by the public will not go to exisiting funds which already help the homeless in Harrogate.
Existing charities will still have to raise money for their existing activities.
The launch follows a year in which the sight of street begging in Harrogate town centre - despite an existing raft of measures already supporting the homeless - lead to a debate about the real nature of the issue.
The growth of anti-social behaviour in the area enraged shopkeepers, in particular.
Liz Hancock, chief executive of Harrogate Homeless Project, told the Harrogate Advertiser Harrogate Street Aid was about creating real change versus giving small change.
The HHP boss stressed the new scheme was not about offering street beggars emergency or crisis care which was already carried out by Harrogate Homeless Project which still needed to raise its own funds.
She said: "It will give an alternative way to help people on the streets. We're sympathetic to members of the public and we understand why they give to beggars.
"It's really disturbing to pass someone sitting on the street in cold weather but giving money like that is not the best way to help people.
"It ends up supporting street life rather than turning their lives around for the long term."
The new money will be used specifically to help homeless people in Harrogate get off the streets and start a new life.
Liz Hancock said the new scheme would allow people on the streets to apply for grants to help them get off the streets as already happened successfully in other towns across the UK.
She said: "It's designed to make lasting change. It's an easy way for people to donate knowing their money is going to help an individual turn their life around in a meaningful way.
"Street Aid has already been successful in other places in Britain like Cambridge."