When you hand some change to a beggar in the street, you probably think you’ve just helped to provide that person with the means to buy a warm drink or some food.

Chances are, without realising, you’ve perhaps instead fuelled a drink or drug habit of someone who is not homeless and maybe not even from Nottingham either.

Now, a campaign has been launched to encourage people to change the way they give by donating money directly to a homelessness charity, rather than to someone begging in the street.

Launched this week, the Alternative Giving scheme has been set up by the Nottingham Crime and Drugs Partnership (CDP) in association with Community Protection, a partnership between Notts Police and the City Council.

The aim is make sure that all funds given by kind-hearted Nottingham people get spent on charitable work to help those in need, instead of going towards alcohol and drugs.

Leader of Nottingham City Council, Councillor Jon Collins, said: “The City  Council and the Police through the Community Protection service have taken action against a number of persistent beggars through the courts.

“These included a man living in Derby who deliberately made himself appear like a rough sleeper to come to Nottingham and beg for money, specifically to fund a drug habit. This individual boasted to police about how much money he made each day, and was regularly seen throwing away food that he’d been given by concerned members of the public.”

Chief Inspector Shaun Ostle, who heads up the city centre police team, said: “Nottingham has reduced begging over the past few years, but we still have work to do.

“We would like the public to change the way they give and ask them to donate to alternative charities which help the homeless rather than people on the street.  What many people don’t know is that most beggars are not actually homeless and beg to feed a drug or alcohol habit.”

The aim of the Alternative Giving scheme is to highlight what good work can be done if spare change is donated directly to a homelessness charity like Framework, which is dedicated to helping vulnerable and excluded people with nowhere to go. It also seeks to point out that:

– most people sleeping rough do not beg and most people begging do not sleep rough

– many people who beg have drug or alcohol problems;

– nobody needs to be homeless – council services and charities can help those without a home;

– giving money to a beggar can potentially kill if it feeds a drug or   alcohol habit

– beggars might not be from the city;

– begging is a criminal offence;

– some beggars masquerade as buskers

Jason Marriot, Street Outreach Service Manager for Framework noted: “The desire to help somebody in need is of course a commendable one – but it is not always the best way to help. The first thing to stress is that begging is not actually a very reliable indicator of whether or not somebody is homeless. In fact, the majority of people I come across who are begging are not homeless. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need help. They are mostly living lives that few of us would envy and in very great need of statutory services, but they are not homeless.

“For those people who are experiencing street homelessness, the very best option for anyone wishing to help is to call our Street Outreach Team on 0800 0665356. If somebody is in need of urgent support then we will ensure that that support is provided and that they get all the help they are entitled to.”

More details on the campaign are available at https://www.endingalcoholharm.co.uk/alternative-giving/