Published: Wednesday, 23rd Dec 2020

A former beggar who has turned his life around is encouraging people not to give money to those begging on the streets.

Dean Paul says the money simply supports drug habits.

Dean, 41, said: “Don’t give beggars money. People who give money think they’re helping but they’re not – they are supporting drug habits and feeding a dealer’s pocket.”

His warning is being supported by Bolton Council and local charities.

Cllr Adele Warren, Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member with responsibility for homelessness, said: “If you want to be kind do not give money to a beggar, there are different ways you can help. Your kindness could lead to that person’s overdose.”

Dean left his family home four years ago but ended up sleeping rough in car parks and on the streets of Bolton.

He found himself close to death two years ago after injecting heroin into his groin.

Being rushed into hospital and nearly dying from septicaemia was the catalyst for Dean to turn his life around after taking drugs for 17 years.

At the height of his drug addiction, Dean was injecting 10 times a day. Now he has been clean for a year, moved into his own flat, and wants to train to become a drug support worker.

The money ‘was just for drugs’

He said: “I’ve had a drug problem since I was 24-years-old. I have had a lot of trauma in my life, relationships I’ve been in have broken down, my dad died from cancer and for me drugs was a way of coping.

“When I was in hospital, the operation scared the life out of me. I thought enough is enough – I can’t go on like this, I have three children.

“I decided to change and my life is totally different now. I feel brilliant.

“Now when I’m struggling, I speak to my mates and I have support from a church. I’m basically concentrating on me and getting the best out of my life.”

Dean advocates not giving money to beggars. He said: “When I was begging, the money wasn’t for food – it was just for drugs.

“I was a prolific beggar and had the gift of the gab. I was making anything from £75 to £150 a day and making £300 a weekend in Bolton town centre.”

Dean was fined for aggressive begging several times under the Public Spaces Protection Order act in place in Bolton town centre.

He received support and advice from PSPO officer Julie.

He said: “Julie was brilliant. Every time Julie spotted me, she talked to me on a level and put a smile on my face.”.

Bolton Council is part of the Bolton Homeless Alliance partnership which works together to help those who are on the street.

The council’s housing options officers work with organisations including Urban Outreach; Homeless Aid UK; Homeless and Vulnerable Adult Nursing team and to provide support and advice to those who are begging or rough sleeping, and to help find housing.

After Dean came out of hospital, he was placed by the council’s outreach team into Bolton’s A Bed Every Night accommodation for four months.

He was then helped by the team to secure a flat in Horwich and local charity Urban Outreach helped him to move and settle into his flat.

Dean said: “There is help out there but the only person who can get you off the drugs is you – you have to want to do it.”

Be kind and do not give money to a beggar

Bolton Council stressed that almost all of the town’s beggars do have a roof over their heads, and help is available for those who need it – and choose to accept it.

Cllr Warren, who also volunteers for community group Homeless Aid UK, said: “Dean has turned his life around – through determination and through wanting to change, and his achievements are impressive.

“Our staff work all year round with charities and our partners to help those who are vulnerable but people have to want to take the help.

“We are not saying to people turn your backs on beggars. What we are saying is listen to Dean – the money you’re giving is feeding an addiction.

“All the people on our streets begging have been offered help and have refused to take up that offer.

Chief Executive of Urban Outreach, Dave Bagley, added: “People in Bolton are the kindest and most generous folk.

“And coming up to Christmas we understand why now more than ever you want to help.

“But people on the streets who are begging are very vulnerable and lead very complex lives.

“Please help them in a different way.”

How you can help

This money goes directly to the charities and organisations that provide frontline services who are supporting individuals to move away from begging and living on the streets.

Donate to Urban Outreach and mark your donation Hope for Change. They will pass your donation on to Bolton Community and Voluntary Services for distribution.

Prior to the pandemic, collection pots were located at stores in Bolton but currently donations are only being taken virtually.

  • What should I do if I see a rough sleeper?

If you come across a rough sleeper, email (in confidence) or call the council’s Housing Options Services on 01204 335900.

You can also report a rough sleeper at The details you provide will then be passed on to the council.