Peterborough’s professional beggars causing issues for rough sleepers

‘Professional beggars’ are causing issues to ‘genuine’ street sleepers who need help, it has been claimed.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 6:00 am

A report to Peterborough City Council’s adults and communities scrutiny committee heard that two Peterborough rough sleepers a month were now being helped to leave the streets behind - but begging and anti-social behaviour was causing issues in helping the most needy cases.

At Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting, Cllr Steve Allen, chairman of the committee said: “We’ve had different issues over the Christmas period, particularly at St Peter’s Arcade where some of those appearing to be homeless with sleeping bags on the pavements were in fact just begging, and not homeless at all.

“Of course, the public don’t know this and in the season of good will to all quite rightly gave generously to somebody appearing to be sleeping rough on our streets.

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Homeless in the St Peter's arcade EMN-191231-144121009

“But all good will aside, this hasn’t helped our genuine street sleepers who soon left that area, and has sadly only entrenched the drug abuse problems that often go hand-in-hand with street begging.

“That said, it is the aim of our team to get as many genuine people who need our help off of the streets as soon as we can, and into some form of sustainable accommodation.”

‘Professional begging’ has also been raised as a problem by the Safer off the Streets partnership, which helps homeless residents and rough sleepers in Peterborough.

A spokesman said: “Rough sleepers are also being given more items like bedding and tents than they can reasonably use and therefore are left to litter the streets.

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“It also makes individuals less like to agree to support as they can maintain their life on the streets.”

In December 31-year-old Lucas Lamb, of Redmile Walk, was fined £80 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £32 and £100 costs after being found guilty of begging in St Peter’s Arcade.

Cllr Andy Coles said there was more the council could do to help.

He said: “The problem is that we have a small group of ‘constant street sleepers’ who have chosen that lifestyle and refuse all offers of help.

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“Then there are the transient street sleepers who find themselves moving from place to place, and sometimes seek help where they can get it.

“Finally, we have those who present themselves as homeless to us, and want as much help as can be given to them.

“Of these, we get two persons per month off the streets and into sustainable accommodation of some kind, but the question is how can we improve upon this relatively small number of people?”

Speaking after the meeting, cllr Allen, cabinet member for housing, said: “The results of our annual rough sleeper count will be published at the end of January.

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“Peterborough City Council is part of the Safer Off the Streets partnership, which brings together all organisations which help rough sleepers to actively support them in leaving the streets for good. It’s great to see the city pulling together in this way.

“The partnership has had some been successful in helping 44 rough sleepers to leave the streets in its first year, over double the amount for 2018.

“The council’s rough sleeper outreach teams played a key role in this by both finding accommodation and supporting former rough sleepers to make this transition.”

The Safer off the Street’s partnership launched in October 2018 and includes 19 partners from voluntary, faith and community organisations in the city.

More than £13,000 has been raised since the partnership was launched.

Before Christmas an ‘Amazon Wishlist’ was launched to try and provide essentials for rough sleepers over the winter. The campaign saw more than 40 items purchased.

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The council’s outreach team often see up to 150 clients each month.

For more information on how to help homeless residents and rough sleepers in Peterborough, visit www.saferoffthestreets.co.uk

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