A new campaign is urging people not to give money to individuals begging on the street but to donate it to homeless charities instead.
The campaign has been launched this week by Nottingham Community Protection, a partnership between the City Council and the Police, because of concerns that money given directly to people who beg is used to feed harmful addictions.
A hard-hitting poster campaign is being used to get the message across to local people that their kind-hearted generosity could be doing more harm than good to the individuals they are trying to help and that their money would be better directed towards charities that can provide the kind of help and support people really need.
Nottingham City Council Leader, Councillor Jon Collins, said: “This campaign is not about homeless people, who with local housing charities, we work effectively to support through our No Second Night Out policy and a range of housing and hostel projects.
“This campaign is about people who beg, almost none of whom are homeless but who are feeding drug or alcohol problems which in many cases can be life-shortening. Regrettably, the public in Nottingham are faced with a small number of people who persistently and often aggressively beg, and who themselves boast of making hundreds of pounds a day.
“Despite people’s best intentions, giving money to people begging does not help them, but instead feeds harmful habits. We would urge anyone who wants to help genuinely homeless people to donate to homeless charities.”
Talking to the Nottingham Post about the issue, Dave Smith, service director for the local homeless charity Framework, said: “The reason members of the public give money to people who beg is because they want to help them. The thought behind this action is entirely commendable, but in most cases it really isn’t the best way to help somebody in need – whether they are genuinely rough sleeping or not. Indeed, in a great many cases it can actually do more harm than good.
“In Nottingham we know that most people who beg are not sleeping rough, but this doesn’t mean they don’t need or deserve help. They absolutely do.
“In most cases people who beg are experiencing lives that few of us would envy – living in unsuitable, unstable or unsafe accommodation and coping with addictions, mental and physical health problems.
“Framework, like other housing charities across the country, knows from experience that these problems are best remedied by professional support services – not by the giving of money with no knowledge as to how it will be spent. If people do wish to give money to help homeless and vulnerable people, we would advise them to support a registered charity with the knowledge and experience needed to bring about lasting change.”
Councillor Nicola Heaton, Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “The dilemma is all too familiar. You’re walking along the street when someone approaches you and asks for some spare change. So you hand over some money thinking you’ve just helped them to buy some food or a warm drink.
“Sadly, the chances are that without realising it, you’ve just helped fuel someone’s serious, possibly life-threatening drug or alcohol habit.
“We know that there are a lot of kind-hearted people in Nottingham who really want to help. But the best way to do this is to give money to charities and organisations who can provide the support and treatment people really need.”
Chief Inspector Shaun Ostle, who heads up the city centre police team, said: “Nottingham has made huge strides in reducing begging in recent years, but we know it is still a major concern with citizens.
“Enforcement is only one part of the solution and in fact everyone has a role to play. That is why we are asking people to change the way they give.
“Begging is almost always an aspect of really damaging lifestyles that people can find themselves trapped in.”
Why you should change the way you give…
- Most people sleeping rough do not beg and most people begging do not sleep rough;
- Begging often funds the misuse of drugs and alcohol;
- There are many local charities that can help people without a home or who have a drug or alcohol problem; they need your support
- Charities can make your money go so much further
- Begging is a criminal offence
For those people who are experiencing street homelessness, the very best option for anyone wishing to help is to call Framework’s Street Outreach Team on 0800 0665356. If somebody is in need of urgent support then they will ensure that support is provided and that they get all the help they are entitled to.
More details on the campaign are available at: http://www.endingalcoholharm.co.uk/altgiving
Cast study 1
Complaints were made to the Council and Police about man in his thirties begging near cash machines. Of particular concern was his aggressive attitude to passers-by. On one particular occasion it was witnessed, and used as evidence in Court, that he had followed a woman for some distance along the street, harassing her for cash while heavily intoxicated.
Case study 2
A man in his 40s was found to be travelling to Nottingham to beg for the day from a neighbouring city. He had already been the subject of a Criminal Anti Social Behaviour Order (CRASBO) issued to him in in his home city prohibiting him from begging anywhere in England and Wales for 5 years due to his extensive record and convictions for begging offences throughout the UK.
When begging in Nottingham he would change out of the clothes he travelled in into clothes that helped give a homeless appearance. He carried his clean clothes in a bag which he would change back into for the journey home.
Officers reported how he would flaunt his earnings to them by waving wads of cash he had obtained from the citizens of Nottingham, informing them of how much he had gained in so many hours ‘work’.
Case study 3
A man and a woman, who had previously been the subject of a Criminal Anti Social Behaviour Order (CRASBO), were not homeless but travelled in to the city centre to beg for cash to fund their drug and alcohol addictions. The man would act as a look out for his partner while she begged in shop doorways.