Brian Agnew, the Chairman of Lisburn Foodbank based at Lisburn City Church, has urged people to think twice before giving money to people begging on the street.
Last week police revealed that they had moved on beggars from the city centre who they believe were part of an organised crime gang and many people have expressed concern that they had been put off giving money to people or donating to charity,
Now Mr. Agnew has warned people not to give money to beggars but rather to donate to charities which can help, saying that there is a system in place to help people in need.
“I never give money to people in the streets because I know money can be abused,” explained Mr Agnew.
“Every time you give them money you are encouraging them to keep begging rather than finding out what help and benefits they can receive.
“I would advise people to investigate a charity to donate to because when you give money to someone on the street you don’t know where it is going to or what it is being used for.
“You could be supporting organised crime without even realising it.
“If you see someone you believe to be genuinely in need, buy them a sandwich and a coffee and take them to one of the agencies that can help them. There is help there for those that want it.”
Mr Agnew explained that Lisburn Foodbank, which provides emergency provisions to local people who are in need, works with seventy partners in the city and that help with food, benefits, housing is available. “As an outsider coming from a background in business and the church, I can see that the system is first rate. If people genuinely want help then the help is there,” he said.
Mr Agnew added that people should be “purpose driven” in their giving and that donations should be made to registered charities, which can be investigated through the Northern Ireland Charities Commission. “If you have a heart for people in need, don’t just give money mindlessly. Why would you give your hard earned money to someone if they are part of an organised crime gang?
“The Charities Commission has been put in place to stop this kind of thing happening so I would say never judge a book by its cover and always make sure you know where your money is going.”