Residents of Torbay are again being asked for their help to reduce street begging as part of campaign led by Torbay Council, Devon and Cornwall Police and local organisation Shekinah.
The Killing with Kindness campaign was originally launched in 2015 and asked the public not to give money to anyone begging, because a number of individuals who had been identified as begging in Torbay at that time were known to have accommodation.
Superintendent Glen Mayhew South Devon Policing Commander said: “We know this is a controversial issue and we are categorically not saying that the public shouldn’t try to help those who are genuinely homeless and need help. This campaign however is not about homelessness it is about street begging and whilst those issues may be linked in some cases, they are in fact very different. Our local neighbourhood policing teams, and staff from a range of other organisations including Torbay Council proactively engage with these individuals regularly, so I can confirm that the majority of people who are begging in Torbay are not homeless, they do have accommodation, and they are in some cases using the income from begging to fund incredibly harmful drug and alcohol addictions or anti-social activities”.
“If someone is begging and they are genuinely homeless they may use that money to buy food and water, of course, but vulnerable people who want to change their lives for the better in the long term need professional help and support which is available in Torbay. The reality is whatever good intentions someone may have, if they give money to anyone who is begging they may either: be giving cash to someone who isn’t homeless; in some cases funding a harmful addiction; or enabling someone to stay on the streets (if they are genuinely homeless) and by doing so, preventing them from accessing the services they really need. The fact of the matter is if someone gives money directly to an individual who is begging they can’t ever be sure of what they have just funded”.
“I urge our local residents to not give money to those who beg, to support the police, council and Shekinah in their efforts to help those who really need it and take action against those who are abusing the kindness of strangers and if anyone wants to help, to help in another way”.
In terms of tackling homelessness the Killing with Kindness campaign has involved the provision of outreach support to vulnerable individuals who need help to secure permanent accommodation. Some (but not all) of those individuals have also needed help and support with other issues that are a factor in their circumstances and their vulnerability such as alcohol or substance misuse.
Councillor Robert Excell Executive Lead for Community Services at Torbay Council said “Torbay remains a safe area and whilst the issues of homelessness and begging are national and not unique to Torbay, this is something that we as a local authority take incredibly seriously.
“We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that those vulnerable individuals with a genuine need who want our help and support receive it, and that enforcement action is taken against those who beg. We have evidence from our staff that in some cases, individuals have purposely presented themselves to the public as homeless by using sleeping bags in order to beg, and then after taking financial donations, have then returned to their home address.
“Begging is illegal, it does impact on the perception of visitors to our area, and it can make people feel intimidated and unsafe. As such we will continue to work to help those who need and want support and to take action against those who are purposely deceiving the public to ensure that Torbay remains a safe and attractive area for our residents and visitors”.
Outreach and enforcement activity will continue to be carried out in specific areas including Torquay harbour-side and Paignton town centre over the coming months.
John Hamblin Chief Executive at Shekinah said “We work with people who are genuinely street homeless and as well as supporting them with somewhere safe to sleep we also offer other services that they might need”.
“Everyone has their own unique life story and if they need help to find a home or with an addiction or anything else, they need proper help, not a quick bit of change. There are so many more positive ways that the public can help. They can talk to street homeless people and see if they’d like a drink or something to eat; they can make a donation to an appropriate local charity or organisation working with the street homeless; or they can even volunteer some of their own time with a local organisation to help”.