The public are being informed that their kindness could kill as part of a new initiative to tackle begging in Torbay.

The initiative by Torbay Council, Devon and Cornwall Police and local organisation Shekinah is being carried out, because a number of individuals who are known to have accommodation have been seen begging in Torbay.

Superintendent Glen Mayhew, South Devon Policing Commander, said: “When we see someone begging it’s completely natural for us to make assumptions about their circumstances, one of which is usually that they’re homeless, but there are a number of people begging in Torbay who we know have accommodation. Those people who are not homeless are in some cases using the income from begging to fund drug and alcohol addictions.

“This isn’t about homelessness, as the council and other local organisations are able to support people in Torbay who are in genuine need of accommodation. The police will continue to support this initiative to ensure that those with a genuine need and who want help receive it, and that those who are illegally begging are dealt with appropriately.”

So far work has included the police and council taking enforcement action against those who are begging in the Torbay area, as well as local organisation Shekinah providing proactive outreach support to those with a genuine need.

Sarah Pengelly, Torbay Services Manager at Shekinah, said: “We work with people who are genuinely street homeless and as well as supporting them with somewhere safe to sleep we also offer other services that they might need. This might include getting them professional help for their mental health if they need it, help with addictions to alcohol or other substances, or giving them support to be able to secure permanent accommodation.

“Whatever someone’s story, if they need help to find a home, with an addiction or for anything else, they need proper help, not a quick bit of change. There are a lot of ways that the public can help. They can talk to street homeless people and see if they’d like a drink or something to eat, they can make a donation to an appropriate local charity or group working with the street homeless, or they can even volunteer some of their own time with a local organisation to help.”.

Work is also being carried out in specific areas like Torquay harbour-side where begging, particularly late at night, has become an issue.

Councillor Robert Excell Executive, Torbay Council's Executive Lead for Community Services, said: “When people are on a night out, often they are in a good mood. People who are begging know this and have been targeting areas, particularly near cash points to access the generosity of people who are having a good time. We’ve had to respond to this with action to find out which individuals need genuine help and which individuals have accommodation and may be using donations from the public to fund addictions that can significantly harm them.

"Giving money to people who beg can make people feel good in that brief moment, but a well meaning action can have terrible consequences later. We would urge the public to help those who are genuinely homeless in other ways and to never give money to those who beg. We would also like to thank the charity Thames Reach for allowing us to use their artwork for this campaign."

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