The sight of tents in Harrogate shop doorways has promoted most of Harrogate's most important organisations to come together to issue a public statement for the first time about street begging.
Prompted by an online story by the Harrogate Advertiser on the situation in the town centre, Harrogate Borough Council, Harrogate Homeless Project, North Yorkshire Horizons, North Yorkshire Police, Harrogate BID and Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce have now issued a joint letter.
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The letter makes a plea for the public to join them in helping people begging to get the support they need but also makes the case for giving to the relevant local charities, not the beggars directly. Below is what the letter says...
A letter on street begging by Liz Hancock, Chief Executive, Harrogate Homeless Project, Paul Ivison, Lead volunteer, North Yorkshire Horizons (Changing Lives), John Fox, Chairman, Harrogate BID, Sandra Doherty, Chief Executive, Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Insp Penny Taylor, Harrogate Police, Councillor Richard Cooper, Leader, Harrogate Borough Council.
"We have read your website piece regarding the two tents that have been put up on our town centre streets by some people begging on the streets.
"You were good enough to feature extensive articles about rough sleeping and street begging in earlier editions of your newspaper and we would like to reiterate the following points for readers who are key to helping us to help those who are street begging.
"There is no need for anyone to sleep on the streets. There is free emergency accommodation at the Harrogate Homeless Project on Bower Street and the Housing Options Team at Harrogate Borough Council stand ready to help.
"Those begging on the streets currently are in receipt of benefits and the vast majority are housed. It is unusual for someone not to have accommodation and not to have access to benefits which are available even if someone is homeless.
"Street beggars are often battling drug and alcohol addiction, mental and physical health problems or family breakdown.
"Many are battling a combination of all of these and other issues too. They need help with their addictions and health problems. Giving money on the streets means that for many they have money to feed addiction and avoid getting the help that is available.
"The best way to help someone begging on the street is to give money and support to organisations that can really help them like the Harrogate Homeless Project and Horizons drug and alcohol recovery service.
""A large proportion of those begging on the streets come in to Harrogate from neighbouring areas where they live to beg because they know that people in Harrogate are compassionate and will give money generously to them. This is not the best way to help people with serious problems.
"Therefore, the advice from North Yorkshire Police, Harrogate Borough Council, Harrogate Homeless Project and North Yorkshire Horizons is not to give money to people begging on the street.
"Persuading street beggars to get the help they need is a job for the whole community. Giving money direct to the street beggars perpetuates their suffering. Please help us to help them."