The threat of fining homeless people in South Tyneside if they accept food and drink from passing strangers has sparked a furious reaction among Gazette readers.
Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) in parts of the borough ban people from drinking in designated streets in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour.
But the rules also means people face a fixed penalty fine or being ordered from the area if they make “verbal, non-verbal or written requests for money, donations, or goods.”
Father Chris Fuller, of St Hilda’s Church, in Market Place, South Shields, works with the borough’s homeless and is worried the order may cause suffering, especially over the winter months.
And 94% of you voted in our poll to say the council was wrong to operate such a policy.
Council bosses say no fines have yet been issued and “tackling homelessness is a core priority”
Father Chris said: “I can totally understand why there’s a need to stop people from drinking on the streets and causing anti-social behaviour but this order means that people who are homeless and who are sitting on the streets may end up being fined if someone pops into Greggs and buys them a coffee or a pasty out of the goodness of their heart.
Father Chris is supported by the majority of Gazette readers who took to out facebook page to make their feelings clear.
Iain Ball wrote: “If they have nothing, how can they pay £100. Nothing like hitting people while they are down. It’s ridiculous.”
Donna Walker added: “A genuinely hungry, cold, homeless person has got enough to worry about. They shouldn’t have to think they will get fined for accepting some food. That’s terrible.”
Rob Paris was of the same opinion.
He wrote: “That says it all doesn’t it. Down and out and now kicked out into touch my those who should be helping these people.”
Margaret Fletcher added: “This is ridiculous. If they are fined, where does a homeless person get £100? Ludicrous.”
Michael Jones said: “As stated, they are unfortunately homeless so trying to fine them will involve them not being able to pay, taken to court and then fined more.
“All of which will cost us tax payers. Who voted in these people who obviously don’t have a brain cell between them.”
Diane Haddon added: “This country has gone mad. Kicking people when they are down.”
Norman Bailey said: “Absolutely disgusting if you can’t do a good deed to help someone less fortunate than yourself. Not all homeless people are plonkys and drug users. Some are in this situation due to mental health problems,financial problems but you’re not allowed to give them a warm drink and something hot to eat.”
Lee Thompson added: “Absolute idiots, Next they will be fining seagulls and pigeons for eating pasty crumbs.”