The Gazette is this week launching a new series of articles called ‘Spotlight on Rough Sleeping’ that looks at the issue in North Devon and what is being done to help.

North Devon Council is launching a new food voucher scheme aimed at changing how people help rough sleepers.

The authority's Spare Change or Real Change campaign was launched in March to try to tackle a rise in street begging and provide long-term solutions to homeless people in Barnstaple.

Rather than giving money directly to people in the street - which may end up being used to fund drug or alcohol addictions - people were urged to donate directly to local homeless charities.

To support the campaign, the council is now hoping to launch a voucher scheme called 'Bought for You', where people can buy a token at a local business for food or a non-alcoholic drink.

A rough sleeper would enter the participating premises and ask for a token to swap for food or drink of their choice.

Any businesses that would like to sign up to the scheme are urged to contact the council via the email address below.

North Devon Council's enhanced rough sleeper outreach team, which works with every known person sleeping on the streets in North Devon, is keen to remind the community of how best to help the district's rough sleepers as winter approaches and people are more vulnerable as a result of severe weather.

The team says it is keen for the public to work with them to help rough sleepers but in a way that benefits its clients without donations being misused.

Some may not be genuine rough sleepers but have accommodation yet supplement their income by street begging.

Natasha Rowland, from the team, said: "We are grateful to anybody who wants to help rough sleepers and we are asking you to consider if you would like to maximise the impact of your donation by giving to a local homeless charity rather than giving money directly to those you see.

"This way it will benefit all rough sleepers and help prevent any potential misuse of cash."

Any businesses that would like to be part of the 'Bought for You' scheme are invited to email natasha.rowland@northdevon.gov.uk .