Campaign aims to reduce begging

 

A campaign to reduce the "serious problem" of active street begging was launched today by the Dublin City Business Improvement District (BID) and the addiction charity Tiglin.

Dublin City BID, a representative organisation for more than 2,500 businesses across the city, claims active street begging creates a perception that the city is unsafe, which impacts negatively on tourism and businesses.

Research conducted by Dublin City Council last year showed that feeling unsafe was one of the most significant factors to impact negatively on people's experience of the city centre.

The 'Change for the Better' campaign is a “diverted giving” scheme, whereby people are urged to stop giving money to individuals begging on the street and to instead donate to one of 40 charity boxes in shops and businesses around the city.

These funds go to Tiglin, which supports people with addiction issues. Dublin City BID and a number of the businesses supporting the campaign have offered to match the donations made by the public through the boxes.

Dublin City BID chief executive Richard Guiney said active begging is “a serious problem” in the city centre. "There has been a stark increase in the number of active begging incidents recorded in the BID area over the past year.

“We know from consumer surveys that there is a perception that Dublin is not a safe city, when actually the statistics say it is extremely safe. About 60 per cent of all tourists will visit Dublin and this perception is very damaging.

“Previous research has shown that one of the main reasons for begging is to fund drug and alcohol addiction. We have observed cases of professional begging in the city and other situations where money given by the public has been used to buy drugs."

Tiglin operations director Phil Thompson said the campaign was an educational process for both beggars and members of the public who give money.

“As you walk down the street, you're caught in this moral dilemma where your heart tells you to do one thing but your head is telling you that maybe that's not the best thing,” he said. “This gives people the option to invest in a long-term solution.”

Niall Murphy (45) from Terenure is a former heroin addict who begged on the streets to fund his addiction - but is now reintegrated into society after completing Tiglin's rehabilitation programme. “There was a rave scene in Dublin during the nineties and I fell into that,” he said. “I started using ecstasy and progressed onto heroin. I was about 35 when I was kicked out and ended up homeless.

“I wasn't your typical beggar sitting on a bridge with a cup, but I'm ashamed to say I used to walk around tapping people to see if they would give me money. Deep down, people knew if I asked for money for a hostel that I really wanted it for drugs.”

Dublin City BID plans to increase the number of boxes as the campaign progresses. There is also an option for people to make a donation by texting 'Change' to 57030.

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