Charity tackles begging in Darlington.
The 700 Club is a Darlington-based charity that provides accommodation and support services to vulnerable individuals, families and couples who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
With the help of the Community Safety Fund, its work now extends to those begging in the town.
Now the charity is aiming to tackle begging in the town – to encourage people to seek longer term help to improve their lives.
No more begging
People beg for a reason. By helping individuals to address their problems, by understanding and meeting their needs, the need to beg disappears.
700 Club Founder John Ellison wants to make sure people have what they need, so they no longer need to beg.
John said “Experience shows us that although individuals often claim to be homeless, they very rarely are.
“Some people beg to feed an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some just see it as easy money.
“Those who beg are some of the most vulnerable individuals in society, but they can be perceived by the public as intimidating when occupying sites near cash machines and parking stands.”
The 700 Club applied to County Durham Community Foundation’s Community Safety Fund for £7,500 for a dedicated outreach worker to work directly with people found begging in the town centre.
The project is fully supported by the Police, the Community Safety Partnership, and the Local Authority.
The public too are part of the project, because if people don’t give, begging activity stops.
By helping the public to understand that money placed into a begging bowl is not ultimately helpful to the person begging, problems like addiction can be addressed not perpetuated.
The outreach worker developed a support plan for each person which included accommodation and drug and alcohol support to remove the core reasons for begging.
John added: “The big challenge was COVID-19. Ironically, lock-down achieved a strategic aim of the project – to stop the flow of money to beggars.
“Empty streets during lockdown meant that begging stopped completely. Although the worker continued the daily check, only since the lockdown ended have people began to beg again.
“But COVID-19 did not solve the issues that individuals had prior to lockdown and therefore the work could not stop.”
The project identified one 63-year-old man who had a history of substance misuse and a council tenancy.
He was vulnerable to eviction but did not want to engage with support.
After four months of building trust with the outreach worker, the client self-referred himself and finally asked for some support.
John said: “After receiving support the individual’s situation has massively improved.
“Eviction has been avoided and his property is clean and tidy. Arrears have been cleared and replaced by an account in credit. The clients mental health is now stable and fortnightly meetings with mental health and substance misuse workers continue.
John added: “Although we are seeing a decrease in the numbers begging which was our overall aim, this project has now turned into a prevention project and educating the public into knowing that they can help stop begging.
“We want the public to know that by donating to a local Darlington Charity such as 700 Club and our campaign “Have a Heart Give Smart” we can work to solve the issue.”
The County Durham and Darlington Community Safety Fund is open for applications until Sunday, October 11th for projects that help keep specific communities safe. Apply Now