Harrogate's new plan to tackle homelessness: How it worked elsewhere

The new Street Aid initiative is set to launch in Harrogate next month.
The new Street Aid initiative is set to launch in Harrogate next month.

It's the bold new plan to help tackle homelessness on Harrogate's streets, but our town isn't the first to trial the high-tech donation scheme.

The Street Aid initiative, which will see contactless ‘tap terminals’ installed in the town centre enabling people to donate to the homeless via a debit card rather than handing over cash to beggars, has had similar initiatives rolled out in Cambridge, Cardiff, York and London, with varying levels of success:


While similar street aid initiatives have been rolled out at a variety of locations across the country, Harrogate's version is most closely modelled off Cambridge's widely-hailed design.

Since launching in 2016, Cambridge Street Aid has seen more than £50,000 raised to tackle homelessness, while street begging in the city has been markedly reduced.

Harrogate businesses called on to support new homeless contactless donation scheme
The city's model includes the contactless tap-payment systems that Harrogate will mirror, with donations going towards individual grants of up to £750 to help people on the streets.

The move has seen more than 150 grants given out to those living on the street.

According to Cambridge City Council, the grants have been used for a wide variety of purposes aimed at helping - and keeping - people from begging and sleeping rough. Among the initiatives funded by Street Aid were:

Helping someone apply for a passport renewal to help them open a bank account and make bank applications;

How Harrogate will reduce street begging with contactless payments
Paying for new shoes and for mobile phones to help people retain contact with their families, and to engage with homelessness charities and agencies who have helped them in the past, in order to boost their mental well-being;

To pay for equipment so a formerly homeless man can set up his own cleaning business;

Allowing one person to buy new clothing so he can join groups and courses with confidence, and lessen the chance of his returning to a street lifestyle;

Helping people pay deposits and advance rent on new tenancies;

Subsidising the cost of construction certificates to enable people to work on building sites;

Paying for white goods and other essential household items for people moving into new homes.

The success of the contactless card-payment scheme saw an additional three donation points added around the city late last year, after initially launching with just two sites.


While the roll-out of the programme in Cambridge was widely-lauded, other versions, such as one launched in Cardiff, have faced more difficulty.

The local democracy reporting service revealed in January that the contactless payment scheme in Cardiff raised less than it cost to set up, after operating for almost a year.

As of January, Cardiff's street aid initiative Give DIFFerently had raised £9,964 since its launch in April 2018.

However, the local democracy reporting service reported that the initial set-up cost of the system was £12,000.

While that figure may appear unflattering, the initiative still saw £8,800 in grants distributed to those struggling with homelessness, with a grants panel giving out 25 payments ranging from £25 to £750 for a range of goods, services and training.

Use of the grants included paying for driving lessons and bus passes, furniture for new accommodation, identification, as well as phones and computers to apply for jobs or organise training.

Tents in Harrogate shop doorways highlights issue of street begging/rough sleeping

Elsewhere, contactless donation points were launched across London ahead of last winter, in a bid to help tackle homelessness during the coldest months.

The latest statistics for the London initiative, titled 'Tap London', show that £90,733 has been raised from 30,257 'taps', or donations worth £3 each.

Much like the other initiatives launched around the country, Tap London provides funding directly to 22 organisations which provide aid to homeless people across the city.

The London programme had an added focus of providing emergency serve weather shelters for homeless people in sub-zero temperatures, a key difference to the Harrogate version, which has specifically stated that no equipment to aid street-living will be purchased using donations.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter