Festive message issued to ‘Have a Heart, Give Smart’

Festive message issued to ‘Have a Heart, Give Smart’
22 November 2022

Those working with the homeless and vulnerable have issued a heartfelt message to ‘Have a Heart, Give Smart’ to support those less fortunate as the festive season approaches.

The council, the 700 Club, Durham Police and other partners work together throughout the year to identify individuals who beg, and others who may be homeless, and offer the support they need.

As Christmas and the cold weather draws nearer, it’s an issue that is high in many people’s minds and you may see vulnerable people begging in the street.

But while many kind-hearted people think giving those who beg money is helping, it actually does nothing to help them tackle their problems and may even make things worse. So ‘Have a Heart, Give Smart’ encourages people to give to a charity offering support instead.

John Elliston, from the 700 Club, explained: “People beg for a variety of reasons, but our experience in Darlington is that homelessness is rarely one of them. Begging to feed an addiction is common, and occasionally people beg to pay rent or bills.

“However, just giving money to those who beg does nothing to tackle their problems. Indeed, where an addiction is involved, the act of kindness sustains behaviour that can kill. So, we’re urging people not to give to individuals on the street, but to ‘give smart’. Be part of the solution and support the agencies that are working to help them instead.”

Cllr Mike Renton, our cabinet member for stronger communities, said: “We’re working closely with the 700 Club, Police and other partners to offer support to anyone found to be begging on the streets – not just at Christmas, but all year round.

“And we’ve created a new online form on our website to make it easier for people to let us know if they’re concerned about any individual they see begging on the streets, so we can then ensure help and support is offered.

“We have posters around the town centre with a special QR code that you can scan to access the form when you’re out and about, or you can log onto our website at www.darlington.gov.uk/reportit and click on ‘report incidents of begging’.

“By letting us know where they are, you are helping ensure they get the support they need. However, if you want to help financially, please do consider a donation to a relevant charity rather than giving money to the individual.”

Inspector Dean Haythornthwaite, 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.

“I understand the public compassion and desire to help people, but I’d ask that you don’t give money, as this does not solve the issue.  The best way to help is to give money to a homeless charity, who can better support these vulnerable people, but if you feel the need to offer immediate help, then please consider buying a hot drink or something to eat.”

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 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 

During severe weather, extra provisions are also made for rough sleepers and we work with local organisations and housing providers to make extra accommodation available.

If you are concerned about a homeless person/rough sleeper, contact:

  • Housing options team – call 405333 or email [email protected] (during office hours).
  • Street Link – make a report online at www.streetlink.org.uk  If you request an update, you'll be told within 10 days what action was taken as a result of your alert.
  • Outside office hours call 01642 524552. The team will provide advice for rough sleepers who want accommodation.

If someone is unwell, unresponsive, or distressed, please call 999.

For more information visit www.darlington.gov.uk/homelessness



Photo caption L-R: Chris Knox, Community Safety Programme Manager; Sgt Matt Plumb, Durham Police Neighbourhood Policing Team; Cllr Mike Renton, Cabinet member for stronger communities, and John Elliston, head of strategy and development at the 700 Club

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