A new initiative has been launched in Shrewsbury to encourage people to donate money directly to local homelessness charities, rather than giving it to someone begging in the town’s streets. The Alternative Giving scheme has been set up by the Team Shrewsbury partnership, as many people who beg are not actually homeless or sleeping rough, and many beg to feed a drug or alcohol habit.

It aims to ensure that money goes direct to groups that help the homeless in Shrewsbury.

Under the scheme, from early February 2016 people will be able to make a donation in one of four collection boxes that are being put in place in four locations around the town centre.

The metal boxes will be located at Pride Hill, The Square, Shrewsbury Railway Station and Frankwell footbridge.

The money collected will be distributed by Shrewsbury Ark, The Rough Sleepers Task Force Group and Shrewsbury Street Pastors, and 100% of all donations will go to help the homeless and vulnerable individuals in Shrewsbury.

The collection boxes have been manufactured free of charge by Shrewsbury firm Salop Design & Engineering Ltd.

Inspector Edward Hancox from West Mercia Police, said:

“When you hand some change to a rough sleeper 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.

“What many people don’t know is that many rough sleepers are not actually homeless and beg to feed a drug or alcohol habit. My officers often see rough sleepers with amounts of food and drink, but continuing to ask for money.

“The aim of the Alternative Giving scheme is to highlight what good work can be done if spare change is donated directly to a local homelessness charity.

“The Shrewsbury Alternative Giving scheme will support projects that work with homeless people in the town to help them off the streets. All money given by kind-hearted Shrewsbury residents and visitors will be spent on charitable work to help those in need, instead of going towards alcohol and drugs.

“We want people to change the way they give, and ask them to donate to charities which help the homeless, rather than to people on the street. The message we want to get across is that the best way to help people who beg on the streets of Shrewsbury is to make a donation in one of the new collection boxes rather than giving money directly, which is being misused.”

Howard Hutchings, Chairman of the Shrewsbury Ark, said:

“The Shrewsbury Alternative Giving scheme will help support our work in meeting the needs not only of people living on the streets but also other vulnerable people living in Shrewsbury who are part of our community. The funds can be used to target where there is real need, and also ensure that it is used in the most appropriate way. It will provide us with the opportunity to show that the people of the town care about people who are struggling to cope.

“At the Ark, we want to support people who feel excluded from society, get them back on their feet, equip them to cope, boost their self-esteem and confidence and eventually become valued members of the community once again. We will continue to support them on their journey as they tackle the many challenges in life that come along.”

Steve Jones, Director of Operations for Shrewsbury Street Pastors, said:

“Shrewsbury Street Pastors are delighted to support the Alternative Giving Scheme. This scheme will enable us to direct our support in an even more appropriate way and, by continuing to work with the other homeless charities in and around Shrewsbury, we will all be able to make a co-ordinated response so all who give will know that their money is being used to help those who are in real need.

“For the last four years we have supported the homeless and rough sleepers when we meet them in the early hours of the mornings. Now that we have our support vehicle, we can make them a hot drink and help warm them up particularly when the temperature takes a plummet.

“The people of Shrewsbury are very generous and anxious to help those in need, but don’t necessarily know how to do it effectively. This is the way to do it!”

Donations can also be made on the Shrewsbury Ark website.