THE STAR SAYS: Begging campaign will spark debate

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It’s a delicate subject that is bound to provoke widespread debate among Sheffield residents.

Today a new campaign which urges those generous people who want to help the homeless to donate cash to charity - instead of directly to beggars on the streets - is launched.

Those taking part, at the city council, the police force, and local charities, say handing over a fiver to someone in need can be ‘counter productive.’

Aaron Rooke, who slept on the streets for eight months but is now selling the Big Issue and beginning to turn his life around, is far more brutally honest about the whole thing.

He admits that, when he was begging, the money didn’t always go towards food and essentials, but sometimes towards drinks and cannabis to ‘block out’ the awful way that things were.

For anyone who has not slept rough, it is hard to imagine what that must be like.

And the candid 22-year-old says he feels there is ‘more hope’ now he is backworking again instead of being at rock bottom.

“You think you are helping the beggars by giving them money but you are not - you are making it worse”, he said.

Aaron, and the charities which are helping him to get back on his feet, are to be commended for all their hard work.

While more must be done to help the homeless it is likely that not everyone will agree with this campaign.

There are those who would prefer to give up their spare change when they can, and to put it directly in the hands of the needy, rather than through a direct debit or a cheque to an organisation.

It is said there are an estimated 40 people who regularly beg in the city centre.

Yes, most people will say they know someone who gave a beggar £20 at Christmas, only to see them celebrating with a can of lager half an hour later.

But not everyone who is living on the streets will feel able to turn to the authorities for help in the first place, and not all of them will use donations from passers by on drink or drugs.

If you do make a donation to charity instead, it would also be great to know that the £1 would pay for a shower, or £5 covered a day’s hot food, to show exactly where it has gone and what a tangible difference it makes.

We will watch this campaign with great interest and as ever welcome Star readers’ views.