As the season of goodwill fast approaches agencies working with the homeless in Darlington have issued a timely reminder to remember those less fortunate this Christmas.

The 700 Club, Darlington Borough Council, Durham Police and other partners, joined forces to launch the ‘Have a heart, give smart’ campaign last year to encourage members of the public to give to charity, rather than to those who beg.

It’s a message that’s particularly relevant with Christmas approaching and many people keen to help those in need. However, while there are a small number of beggars on the streets of Darlington, rarely are they genuinely homeless.

John Elliston, from the 700 Club, explained:

“People beg for a variety of reasons and our experience here in Darlington is that homelessness is rarely the driver, while begging to feed an addiction is common, others beg to pay rent or bills.

“However, giving money to those who beg does nothing to tackle the problems they may be facing, and in some cases that act of kindness can prove fatal. So we’re urging people not to give to individuals on the street, and to do something more positive by supporting the agencies that are working together to help them.”

Cllr Jonathan Dulston, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Community Safety, said:

“The public should be reassured that the council, 700 Club, Police and other partners work all year round – not just at Christmas – to offer support to anyone found to be begging on the streets.

“We understand people may want to help someone they see begging, but giving them money isn’t necessarily the best thing to do. If you want to help, let us know when/where you’ve seen them so we can ensure an outreach worker can make contact, if they haven’t already!

“If you want to help financially, remember the ‘Have a heart, give smart’ campaign and consider a donation to a relevant charity who can then give them the support they need to really make a difference.

Inspector Chris Knox, of Durham Constabulary, added:

“All of my team carry the contact details for agencies to help anyone found on the streets in need of help, so if we need to we can act without delay. Though I would stress that anyone currently begging in Darlington is not doing it to get money for accommodation.

“If the public wants to help they should donate money to a homeless charity or give the person food or a hot drink, but please do not give them cash as this only contributes to their ongoing problems, it does not help them.”

The 700 Club is the lead partner on an outreach programme to help those who are begging in the town. If you would like to donate to the 700 Club you can now do so by text – text BEGGING to 70085 and a donation of £5 will be made.

Alternatively, you can choose how much you want to donate (from £1 to £20, in whole pounds) – simply text BEGGING followed by a number between 1 and 20 (ie BEGGING1, BEGGING17) and a donation of the specified amount will be made.

Money donated by this method is specifically used to help fund the charity’s work with those begging. To find out more or to donate online visit www.700club.org.uk/appeal/begging

If you are homeless, or worried about someone who is, call Darlington Borough Council on 01325 405333 (from Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm) or StreetLink on 0300 500 0914 (24 hours)

For more information visit the website at: www.darlington.gov.uk/homelessness