Why you shouldn't give money to people begging on the street

Mar 3, 2016 at 3:28 p.m. ET
Image: Jeff J Mitchell/Staff/Getty Images

When you see someone looking downtrodden on the side of the street and asking for a few coins, it's normal to feel a tug on the heartstrings and be tempted to help them out.

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It's not a long-term solution, but you may feel as though you've performed an act of kindness for the day. However, the problem is that your generosity may actually be doing far more harm than good.

Homelessness charity Thames Reach has revealed that around 80 percent of beggars on the street don't need money for accommodation. Rather, many are begging to feed their drug habit. And the charity is hoping to educate the public on why giving money is not helping the situation, Metro reports.

Thames Reach's Mike Nicholas said, "We want to educate the public — the main reason people are begging on the street is heroin and crack. If you give a beggar money, it ends up lining the pockets of drug dealers and potentially killing the person through an overdose.

"People who are begging are often doing so because they are caught up in a dangerous lifestyle. They are begging, injecting drugs, going back to begging."

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"They are dying very young. The best way to help them is not give them money," Nicholas said.

He went on to reveal that most people that the charity meets on the street actually suffer from a Class A drug addiction.

"Overwhelming evidence shows that people who beg on the streets of England do so in order to buy hard drugs, particularly crack cocaine and heroin, and super-strength alcoholic beers and ciders," he said. "These highly addictive drugs cause an extreme deterioration in people's health and even death.

"This evidence comes from a number of sources. Firstly, Thames Reach's outreach teams, including its London Street Rescue service, who are out and about on the streets of the capital working with London's homeless 365 days of the year."

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So, giving money to someone who is begging may not be the right move, but how can you get involved if you really do want to help?

You could buy the person food or a warm drink, perhaps even a blanket or a jacket. But in order to do the most good, contact local homelessness organisations like Thames Reach. There are countless charities across the U.K., such as the Salvation Army, Shelter and Barnardo's, helping vulnerable and homeless people find decent homes and build supportive relationships.

If you see someone sleeping in terrible conditions, you can call Streetlink, which processes information about the homeless person and refers them to the appropriate agencies.

Homelessness stats are shockingly high: "At least 7,581 people are believed to have slept rough in London in 2014/15, a 16 percent rise on the previous year. And on any given night in 2014, 2,744 people were sleeping rough in England," Metro reports.

Remember, don't give beggars money. Try to make a long-term difference by helping them in practical ways or help the agencies who help them instead.