Homeless people in South Tyneside could be fined £100 if they accept food and drink from passing strangers.
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.”
Warning notices now appear on lampposts in areas which fall within the terms of an order.
Last week figures by housing charity Shelter showed South Tyenside was the homeless capital of the North East - with one in every 531 residents being without a home.
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.
Council bosses say no fines have yet been issued and “tackling homelessness is a core priority” but 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.
“It’s now freezing and to potentially penalise someone for receiving a donation of warm clothing, food or a drink is just rather mean.”
Father Chris has warning letters given to homeless people he cares for.
He said: “One letter was issued because a man received some money. He was genuinely using the cash to buy food. But it means it is potentially risky business buying a homeless person a simple sausage roll.”
Coun Allan West, lead member for housing and transport said PSPOs can only be brought in where there’s evidence of professional beggars.
He said: “These orders are in no way aimed at people in genuine hardship. We have to balance protecting our residents and visitors with providing help and support for those in genuine need.
“We have not issued any fixed penalty notices for begging since the orders were introduced six months ago although we have spoken to individuals and written to them where a home address is known.”
“Tackling homelessness is a core priority for the council. Where someone is in crisis we have a range of services which help individuals to find the support and housing they need.”