Council stencils pavement messages to deter 'aggressive begging'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities
beggingImage: Beggar via Shutterstock
A council has taken to spraying stencilled messages onto pavements, in an attempt to stop "aggressive and intimidating begging".
Exeter City Council hopes that its plan – using biodegradable chalk that washes off after a "while" – will help explain to the public how much support there is for the city's rough sleepers, and how they can help.
Cllr Rob Hannaford, lead councillor for housing and customer access, said: “If people realised that there is support in Exeter in terms of emergency accommodation and regular food and drink for people on the street, they may think twice about giving money direct to those who are begging and instead donate to the charities that provide the support.”
Among the pavement messages are 'PLEASE CONSIDER GIVING DIRECTLY TO CHARITY AND NOT TO PEOPLE WHO BEG' and 'SPARE CHANGE? HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT A LOCAL CHARITY?'
There have been a number of complaints from people living or working in Exeter or visiting the city about unwanted attention from people who persistently beg, often when they are about to enter shops or draw money out of cash dispensers.
Cllr Hannaford added: “There are lots of reasons why people beg for money. We understand that they may have complex needs and issues such as problematic drug use and this is why we are engaging with them in an appropriate way.
“Our message is ‘please don’t give directly to people begging’. Begging is a criminal offence and there is support for people who are sleeping rough on the streets like hostels and place that provide free meals throughout the day.”
The council is asking people to donate money to a number of charities that work with the homeless in Exeter, instead of handing money over in the street.
One of the charities is Bournemouth Church Housing Association, which carries out regular checks on rough sleepers, offering support and advice.
Adrian Staegemann, co-ordinator of BCHA’s street homeless outreach team, said: “We are pleased to be supporting Exeter City Council with this campaign, and hope it will help those people who want to support the homeless people of Exeter, to know the many alternative ways in which they can do so.
“We work closely with Exeter City Council and other agencies to provide a variety of services and interventions for people rough sleeping, helping them to shelter from the streets and access nutritious hot food, warm clothing and medical help.”
David Morgan, of The Big Issue, said: “Every Big Issue vendor must sign a code of conduct before they are allowed to sell.
"They are then given the opportunity to work for their money in the same way as any other independent trader. Many of our vendors have come from a back ground of begging and are blown away by the support of the general public who have seen them begging in the past. This campaign is about helping people out of a bad situation and encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions.”