When / where to donate food / money to the homeless

I came across an article today titled: “Council ‘strongly advise’ public not to donate food or money to those at ‘Camp Groves, which goes on to say: “Wrexham Council have ‘strongly advised’ that members of the public do not donate food and money to those currently based on the Groves site – instead encouraging people to donate directly to charities or organisations offering services instead. The request to the public has been made by the local authority in a statement, with further detail released to Wrexham.com noting that there is no timeframe for the camp to be cleared. It comes after a makeshift homeless encampment was set up in the grounds of the former Groves School last month, and anecdotally we have heard it referred to over the last week as ‘Camp Groves’. Over the past few weeks there has been a push locally for donations for those living on the camp; with members of the public and people involved with online groups set up to help Wrexham’s homeless, donating food, clothing, tents and general supplies to the vulnerable people living on the site. However Wrexham Council are now calling on such donations to stop instead requesting that people give money and food to charities and organisations involved with helping those service users and vulnerable people in the long-term”.

Stories like this break from time to time, including in my own town, and I am sometimes asked my opinion. Regarding the “Camp Groves” situation, I would need to know more to give a definite response. Due to my experiences, I am a skeptic and have seen too many people fall through the net to accept any Council’s strong advice at face value. While individual needs and responses vary considerably, many do not get the help hoped for or expected. I have also seen the good intentions of the public to give direct to the homeless having untoward consequences and sometimes the phrase “killing with kindness” springs to mind. In my own practice helping the homeless, I try to work as best I can with the Council and the agencies they work with, and equally I am aware of many other individuals and groups doing good work on behalf of the homeless. I try to support and encourage them within my limitations regardless whether I agree entirely etc.  While I make it my policy NOT to give money to homeless folk, I do give food and other material stuff that might benefit as well as the time of the day, to include a friendly face and a listening ear, and pointing them in the right direction when I can and try to empower them and not judge; be discerning and offer tough love – knowing full well not everyone who comes my way is genuine. It is rarely that straightforward. The reality is there are many homeless folk not getting help (particularly accommodation and support) they need. As I survey the local need, I see lots of positive responses to homelessness from all sorts of quarters, including the Council, but there is also a lot more that needs doing.

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