Thames Reach
Friday 17 November 2017
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Killing with kindness

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Killing with kindnes poster
One of the killing with kindness begging posters that featured in a campaign in the City of London and Tower Hamlets.

You could be killing with kindness if you give to people begging on the capital’s streets. 


Thames Reach is urging well-meaning people that giving spare change to people who beg could help to buy the drugs that kill them.

Thames Reach’s Killing with Kindness campaign aims to educate the public on the links between begging and heroin, crack cocaine and super-strength drinks in the UK – contrary to popular perception, most people who beg are not homeless, and are using the money they receive to fuel a drug or alcohol addiction.

Thames Reach first issued this message back in 2003 when it developed the ‘moneyman’ begging image, a photograph of a human body made up of the coins thrown to him by the unwitting public.

Since then the image has been used by local authorities across London and England including Westminster, Camden, Newcastle, Croydon, Maidstone and Oxford.

In 2013, Thames Reach joined forces with the City of London, Tower Hamlets and the charity Broadway to launch an advertising campaign in the two boroughs.

In 2014, the image was used in Ipswich in a campaign that launched in early August, in the City of London and Tower Hamlets in the autumn and most recently in a campaign running at Bethnal Green station in December 2014/January 2015.


The link between begging and drugs

Overwhelming evidence shows that people who beg on the streets of London do so in order to buy hard drugs, particularly crack cocaine and heroin, and super-strength alcoholic beers and ciders. 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. They estimate that 80 per cent of people begging do so to support a drug habit.

In the experience of frontline workers, people are more likely to accept help and to address their addictions when they are not receiving money from begging.

 Secondly, when the Metropolitan Police did some drug testing of people arrested for begging, the figures indicated that between 70 and 80 per cent tested positive for Class A drugs.

Most recently, in a police crackdown in Birmingham on begging in autumn 2013, every single one of the 40 people arrested failed a drug test.

Thames Reach Chief Executive Jeremy Swain said: "The frontline homelessness charities are in no doubt that money contributed by caring members of the public to people begging is, invariably, spent on heroin and crack cocaine, causing ill health, misery and sometimes death.

"Please give us the opportunity of transforming lives by putting money into services instead of into the pockets of the dealers."

Homelessness and hostels

The hostel accommodation set aside for London’s homeless men and women does not require payment in order to 'book in'. Hostel rent is covered through Housing Benefit, which hostel workers can help the new resident to claim once they have moved into the hostel.

There are around 3,000 bed-spaces of hostel accommodation in London, which can be accessed via the street outreach teams that work in the central London boroughs. London Street Rescue, run by Thames Reach, is one of the main providers of outreach services across London. Our teams not only help people to find accommodation but also get them into drug and alcohol treatment and mental health programmes.

Outreach teams are active at night, and during the day, seven days a week. In the last decade, 20,000 people have been helped off the streets.

 However, only 40 per cent of people arrested for begging in a Metropolitan Police operation claimed to be homeless. Most people begging have accommodation of sorts, either a hostel place or a flat or bed-sit.


Read frequently asked questions about begging

You can still help

Rather than giving money to people on the streets, the Killing with Kindness campaign urges people to give their spare change to homelessness charities. All money donated to Thames Reach goes directly towards helping homeless and vulnerable people.


Donate now


If you see someone on the streets who you are worried about you can phone the Street Link helpline 0300 500 0914 and outreach teams will investigate and offer support to the individual.


What do you think?

What do you think of this campaign? If you have a comment to make, please get in touch with Thames Reach on twitter

Want to learn more?

Sign up for e-Reach to receive regular email bulletins on our activities and the people we help.

For more information on this campaign please contact the Thames Reach press office on 020 3664 9562 or  07816 113 420 or via email.

Giving spare change, do you or don't you?

Do you give spare change to people who beg?
Reach Out, Summer 2003
Reach Out, Summer 2003 - [2.65 MB] Download a PDF of Reach Out, our campaigning newsletter and poster, which covers the issue of begging in the capital.