PEOPLE are being urged not to give money to beggars on the streets of Taunton but to instead donate to a day care centre for rough sleepers.

Avon and Somerset Police have teamed up with Taunton Deane Borough Council to launch a diverted giving scheme to help people who are homeless in the county town.

The initiative will allow people to donate cash directly to the local charity Open Door rather than giving to anyone begging on the streets.

Open Door will use the money to provide meals, showers, laundry and support to rough sleepers from its base in Mount Street.

Cllr Jane Warmington, executive councillor for community leadership at the Deane House, said: "It’s difficult to ignore the problem of rough sleeping on the streets of Taunton especially at this time of year.

"However, not everybody who is begging is homeless and it is not always in their best interests to give money which could be used to fund harmful addictions.

"Making a donation through the diverted giving scheme means you can be sure that your money is helping at a practical level to provide the essentials that rough sleepers really need."

Somerset County Gazette:

Neighbourhood police sergeant Andy Gloyn said: "When it comes to begging and substance misuse there is a balance to be struck.

"Our aim is to work with our partners to help people get into a stable lifestyle, rather than penalise people who are vulnerable.

"However the wider community should not be subjected to aggressive, abusive or anti-social behaviour. We regularly patrol the known hotspots for street drinking and begging.

"That is why we are working with Taunton Deane Borough Council and the Open Door charity on the diverted giving scheme.

"It encourages people who want to help those genuinely living on the streets at this time of year to donate to the central collection point, or through the BT my donate scheme.

"It means rather than giving money to people begging, which could be squandered, it can be used to provide food, clothing and washing facilities including showers for people who are rough sleeping."

You can donate to Open Door by post or in person at 1A Mount Street, Taunton, TA1 3QB or by clicking here and searching for Taunton Open Door.

Open Door manager Mark Woodcock said: "We fully support this initiative and are grateful for any donations, which we will ensure go directly towards helping those in most need."