Shoppers are being encouraged to give money into online schemes to support homelessness, rather than hand cash out to beggars. Only around one in five of the 100 or so beggars who sit on pavements or at traffic lights begging for cash every day in each large city is likely to be rough sleeping that night, community leaders argue.
David Watson, head of support at homeless charity Trident Reach, analysed referrals to Birmingham’s homeless support service streetlink over the past year.
He said: “What they found was the majority were not homeless but were begging to generate funds for themselves.
“We hope that by everyone working together we can make it a better situation for all those who are homeless.
“As a city we have worked hard to reduce rough sleeping…but there are over 100 people begging on any one day. That’s a completely different issue and we need to separate them slightly.”
Councillor John Cotton, cabinet member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities at Birmingham City Council, said: “People want to help, of course, but there are better ways.
“We would certainly not say to people ‘don’t give’ – that’s a personal choice – but we would say there is a better way to give to reach those people in crisis or distress.
“There is a way to ensure your money goes to support people directly in most need.”
Online services alert teams of round-the-clock homeless outreach workers in large cities to concerns about anyone on the streets.
They ensure the most vulnerable get more help, reports Birmingham Live.
And in that city, billboard ads are going up to promote the new “There’s A Better Way” initiative. The ads will appear on major routes in and around Birmingham.
David Watson, head of support at charity Trident Reach, said one of the positives to emerge from the pandemic was that more rough sleepers had engaged with and been helped by the council and support agencies, with fewer now on the streets than there had been for years.
Dozens now have long-term accommodation and wraparound support.
Councillor Sharon Thompson, who oversees homeless services in the city, previously said the fact the “tap was turned off” for beggars during lockdown had encouraged more to seek help.
Cllr Cotton, who represents the city’s Glebe Farm & Tile Cross in the east, added: “Birmingham is a great city of compassion and a city that always extends the hand of help and friendship, rather than pointing the finger of blame or turning the other cheek.”
Birmingham City Council is working with homeless charities, including Trident, Shelter, Crisis and St Basil’s and addiction support agencies, with the new initiative.
Money donated towards it goes into a pot of cash which referral organisations can submit a claim to for emergency support for an individual, often including food, accommodation help, furniture, travel cards – the type of things that start to bring about lasting change.
Click through via Changeintoaction.org.uk to donate.
A typical support package through Change Into Action can be worth between £150 and £700, enough to support the recipient to cover a rental deposit, or for second hand furniture they need, to pay for a travel card and other needs.
One of the local initiatives supporting the project is a Housing First scheme run by Craunston. In a pilot project that started last June, some 66 long term rough sleepers have been rehoused. The project is now looking to be extended, said Safural Giwa, team leader from the project.
A surge in domestic violence cases through the pandemic has also driven up demand for help from homeless organisations – and cash donations will also ensure those fleeing abusive situations get more support.