Published Wednesday, 19 February 2014
Shoppers in Belfast city centre are being given leaflets about 'beggars'. (© Pacemaker)
The Simon Community says it is disappointed by the action being taken in the Castle Street area, close to a homeless shelter, and by the content of the leaflets.
"The use of the language of the leaflet isn't helpful and them using the word 'beggars' is a backward step," Jim Dennison, from the organisation, told UTV.
"I think that the leaflet was probably a reaction to try and deal with an issue. I think the issue could be dealt with in a better way."
However, Belfast City Centre management supported the production of leaflet and are defending their position.
They claim a small group of people in the area have persistently refused help from local charities and that anti-social behaviour has become a problem.
"This small core of 15 people has been prosecuted time and time again and that is not working," Andrew Irvine said.
"We all need to ask ourselves: 'Is giving money to people with alcohol addiction a smart thing to do?'"
I would rather people bought them something to eat or bought them a hot cup of coffee and help both the individual and the businesses.
Andrew Irvine, Belfast City Centre management
Sinn Féin Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir told UTV there is an issue with illegal drinking which affects the traders and needs to be addressed - but that compassion is required to deal with it.
"I don't think it's useful to confuse the issue of illegal street drinking with what is described in this leaflet as begging," he said, adding that such advice may impact on people like Big Issue sellers.
The lord mayor does agree that there is a question of whether giving money to someone on the street who may spend it on alcohol is the right way to help them.
"It may be better to give the money to the Welcome Centre which offers unconditional help to the homeless, or to the Simon Community, or to the Sally Ann," Mr Ó Muilleoir said.
"In relation to those busking or selling the Big issue ... I've given money and people can make their own mind up."
The leaflets being distributed by traders state: "The businesses of the area would kindly ask everyone who uses Castle Street to refrain from giving beggars and on street drinkers money; and to report issues of on street drinking and anti-social behaviour to the police."
© UTV News