A scheme to help the homeless and reduce the number of beggars on Swindon Town Centre streets has being launched.
As part of the Street Safe Scheme, the management team at inSwindon BID Company – which looks after the town centre – are putting collecting boxes in town centre cafes, restaurants and stores, and asking shoppers to put donations in these instead of giving directly to beggars.
All money collected will go to HOSTS – Homeless Organisations Stick Together in Swindon – which donates money to local organisations which help homeless and disadvantaged people.
Mark Ross, chief executive of inSwindon, said he "hoped shoppers would get on board and put any spare change they might have given to beggars into the collection boxes instead".
"We are doing this for two reasons," he said. "Firstly, while the numbers of beggars in Swindon has fallen through the introduction of our Street Team, we want to see a further reduction, and this we can do by taking away their 'income'. We know that shoppers feel uncomfortable being asked for money by beggars and we want to enhance their shopping experience by reducing this problem.
"Secondly, giving directly to beggars often means money ending up with drug dealers. It's not true of all of them, but many people on the streets are drugs users or alcoholics. By offering an alternative way of giving – through the use of the collecting boxes – money can go directly to the charities which can get to the source and assist in far greater ways than by giving direct where no control can be guaranteed."
Wiltshire Police had backed the scheme. Said Mark: "Our Street Ambassadors, known as the Street Team, and the police have been working closely to help move beggars on and this has been very successful. Begging is illegal, it is antisocial, and this initiative will help reduce it further.
"Street Safe is a fantastic scheme and is a great example of all parties working for the same cause, ultimately to create a safer atmosphere in Swindon Town Centre whilst ensuring and promoting the help that is available to beggars, from the appropriate agencies."
Insp Paul Mills, of Wilshire Police, said: "We regularly look to work with our partners to address the issues related to on-street begging. The HOSTS initiative ensures that where members of the public wish to help homeless people they can be assured that their contributions will go directly towards a number of organisations that are undertaking positive work in this area."
Boxes will be placed in cafes, restaurants and stores. Among those participating will be Baguette de Jour, Manhattan Coffee Company, Mike McGuire, Burty's Café, and JD Monk Opticians, all in Havelock Street; Black's Outdoor Leisure and Vince Ayris in Havelock Square; Madhouse in Regent Street; Stagecoach Bus Service in Carlton Street; the Octagon Cafe in Newbridge Square; and Savers in the Parade.
The inSwindon team also plan to run occasional street collections to raise more for the homeless charities.
Richard Hazell, chair of HOSTS, welcomed the relaunch of Street Safe. He said: "It is a much better way of giving to homeless people than by handing money directly, which just goes to feed people's addiction. Any money collected in this way will be used by HOSTS for homeless projects, such as the day centre at St Luke's."