LIVERPOOL City Council has put together a team to offer extra help to reduce street begging and address associated anti-social behaviour in the city centre.
From this month (July), officers from a number of agencies, including the council and Merseyside Police will join together as part of the new Street Lifestyle Project.
The aim of the project is to pilot a new way of working that encourages people who are begging on the streets to accept the support they need to help them to move away from this lifestyle. It is specifically focussed on helping those who are begging on the city streets but who are not sleeping rough.
A council report into the Street Lifestyles Project says that only a small number of people who are begging are also sleeping rough. However, many are doing it to fund an addiction or because they have other vulnerabilities. The report also suggests that some who are begging do so because they are being exploited by others.
The report acknowledges: “There are environmental issues caused by the presence of this group of people in the city, for example the accumulation of bedding, cardboard and other items in shop doorways and other places.”
By providing more support, the council is also responding to the concerns of the public and city centre businesses following reports of anti-social behaviour – including aggressive behaviour and drug taking.
This year the council will invest more than £11m in preventing and addressing homelessness and supporting rough sleepers. However, there has been no dedicated service for people who are begging, until now.
Cllr Lynnie Hinnigan, who is Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Begging for coins to feed an addiction or to scrape together enough for something to eat is clearly a miserable existence and there should be no place for it in a modern, civilised society.”
“We know many people feel strongly about this issue and want to see us taking action but simply moving people on will not solve anything. It just means the problem will land on someone else’s doorstep.”
“It is only by working together to address the underlying reasons why people are begging will we see any progress. We want people to know that there is an alternative, help is available and we can provide a way out of this lifestyle.”
The team will be a partnership including outreach workers, addiction specialists, additional street cleaning and officers from Merseyside Police. It will work in partnership with the Labre House rough sleeper night hub and The Whitechapel Centre.
Liverpool Community Superintendent Mark Wiggins from Merseyside Police said: “We support the Street Lifestyles Project and its findings, and will continue to work closely alongside Liverpool City Council and other key partners to deal with this complex issue.”
“We recognise that people on our streets need support and we are not looking to prosecute vulnerable people who simply need help. When they come into police contact we work closely with partners in the Local Authority and charitable organisations to try and get them the help they need and ensure they are treated fairly by making referrals to partners, who can offer advice, support and a pathway off our streets.”
“However, if someone is acting aggressively or intimidating people, repeatedly coming to police attention or failing to engage in offers of support, then we can and do take appropriate action to protect all of our communities.”
The council launched its Always Room Inside campaign last year to ensure that no-one in Liverpool needs to sleep rough. Since the opening of Labre House in November, the number of rough sleepers has declined.
If you have concerns about someone who is sleeping rough, you can call the helpline number: 0300 123 2041.