Dear Reader - Trying to discourage street begging + Harrogate Town's spirit of pure football

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Grahgam Chalmers

Friday, 1st November 2019, 5:19 pm
Some of the Harrogate Town FC show their passion at CNG Stadium.

A wide range of different people from some very serious local organisations gathered on Monday at 10am at the back of the M&S food hall to launch Harrogate Street Aid.

There we all were milling around amid passing shoppers in front of a new contactless pay point the size of a mobile phone designed to reduce to street begging in Harrogate town centre.

The aim is straightforward. To ensure donations from the public go to a central fund to change people’s lives, rather into a cap or a bucket by a shop doorway.

Some of the Harrogate Town FC fan base, young and older, show their passion at a match at CNG Stadium.

The argument of Harrogate Street Aid is simple. Giving money directly to people on the streets can actually keep them on the streets for longer.

Before anyone’s tempted to start imagining this is a story of picking on the less fortunate, try talking to exasperated businesses in the Oxford Street area of Harrogate about the shenanigans round the mini-tented ‘village’ earlier in the year.

It also ought to be said that Street Aid is an initiative that’s already in operation in many other parts of the UK.

If anyone knows the real story of Harrogate’s streets, its the three main backers of this new initiative - Harrogate Borough Council, North Yorkshire Police and Harrogate Homeless Project. Indeed, it’s the latter charity’s involvement which convinces me that Harrogate Street Aid isn’t merely about local politics

Day in, day out, 352 days a year, the hard-working team at Harrogate Homeless Project offer both crisis care and a long-term support for the truly homeless.

And they will still have to carry on doing so.

The criteria to be a recipient of the new help means, when the likes of you and me start pressing our credit or bank cards onto that tiny pay point at M&S, our money will be used to complement existing schemes, not replace them.

Going to watch Harrogate Town FC clinch a late win over visitors Aldershot at the weekend was like taking a deep gulp of fresh air.

Forget Match of the Day and the multi-million pound superstars, this was the real deal.

I first set foot inside Town’s ground in 1985 a long time before it was called CNG Stadium.

The club’s incredible rise through the ranks in recent years has brought with it not only the rosy glow of success but also bigger crowds and a much better stadium.

One thing remains the same. The heart and soul of Harrogate Town is the fans themselves.

The Wetherby Road ground is the sort of place where a supporter aged 86 still turns up to every home match and everyone knows who he is.

Fans talk to the players like friends and they in turn seem happy to chat.

Harrogate Town may have toughened up a little since last season when their impressive flair upfront was undermined by fraility at the back but they still like to play football rather than the percentages.

Despite being a 21st century success story, Harrogate Town retains the spirit of a time when the most top players could hope for after their career was over was to run a pub or own a butchers, an era when playing the golden game well was glory enough in itself.