Beggars, Rough Sleepers & the Homeless
Beggars, rough sleepers and the homeless present a unique challenge. On the one hand they can create a negative image for the town centre by increasing perceptions of crime and aggressive begging. On the other hand, individuals involved in these street activities are highly vulnerable, many with experiences of substance misuse, mental health problems, a history of trauma and homelessness who deserve compassion and need support to change.
Local partnerships need to work with agencies who have the skills and resources to address the issues with the individuals and support them to find accommodation and establish positive lifestyles, such as Crisis or Shelter.
Enforcement is an option where people refuse support and continue to cause damage. Tools include alcohol free zones and ASBOs (Anti-Social Behavior Orders) and can reduce the visibility of street users, but only through geographic displacement. More beneficial to the long-term reintegration of street users into society, is access to activities that will help build skills and confidence. The law does have a role to play under two specific circumstances.
Firstly, the law can be useful when enforcement is integrated with intensive support interventions which allow street users to overcome their problems, learn new skills, engage with drug treatment and desist from anti-social behavior.
Secondly, enforcement alone may be appropriate for penalising those who repeatedly offend despite the offers of support, and for those who are not genuinely vulnerable but engaged in professional begging.
Talk to your local Police force and support agencies near your town centre to see what scheme are either currently in place, or can be developed, to help vulnerable people.