A NEW initiative has been launched to offer an alternative way to support people begging on the street.

The 'text to donate' service has been introduced in Darlington as the latest development to come out of the ‘Have a Heart, Give Smart’ campaign, which has been spearheaded by the 700 Club, Darlington Borough Council, Durham Constabulary and other partners.

The campaign aims to encourage members of the public to give to a charity that works with those who beg, rather than giving money directly to beggars.

The 700 Club is part of an outreach programme to help those who are begging in the town. John Elliston said: “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. Our experiences in Darlington is that homelessness is rarely the reason people beg, while begging to feed an addiction is common.

“We’re working with our partners to deliver an outreach programme to help support those who are begging so that they no longer need to beg, and we’re urging people not to give money to individuals begging on the street.”

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “We know many people want to do what they can to help, but giving money to someone begging is not always the best way to do so.

“Perhaps offer them a drink or some food instead and if you do want to help financially, consider a donation to a relevant charity. And if you use the ‘text to donate’ service all the money raised will go to support the outreach programme in Darlington.”

Inspector Chris Knox, from Durham Constabulary, added: “It is human nature to want to help and think that by giving money to beggars you are showing compassion to those who appear to be living on the street. But the stark reality is that your compassion does more harm than good.

“Every beggar in Darlington is known and is spoken to regularly by either ourselves, the local authority or integrated voluntary agencies. We have the services to support those who are sleeping rough and in need.”

To donate text BEGGING to 70085 and a donation of £5 will be made. Alternatively, you can choose how much you want to donate.