Media release - issued 19 Dec 2017

Busting the myths surrounding begging as part of Positive Change campaign

Residents, councillors and traders are backing a six-week campaign launched to tackle antisocial behaviour and begging in Aldershot.

The Positive Change campaign, which launched last week, is encouraging people to donate to local charities rather than giving loose change to people begging on the street.

The campaign, run by Safer North Hampshire and Rushmoor Borough Council, is focused on how people can support long-term change for individuals who may have previously been associated with rough sleeping, and who may continue to socialise, drink and commit antisocial behaviour such as begging.

Although there are currently very few homeless people locally, the number of people begging is increasing - leading to complaints about antisocial behaviour in Aldershot town centre.

The Positive Change campaign is encouraging people to put their spare change into the right hands by donating into collecting tins at various places around Aldershot and Farnborough. All money raised will then be shared between three Aldershot-based charities - Step by Step, The Vine Centre, and The Society of St James.

Councillor Ken Muschamp, Deputy Leader of Rushmoor Borough Council and the chairman of Safer North Hampshire, said: "We have had a really encouraging start to the campaign, with lots of feedback from residents and traders, who are getting behind the campaign. Collecting tins are available at seven locations in Aldershot and Farnborough, and many other premises are displaying our posters or flyers, which we really appreciate.

"This week, we want to raise public awareness about the real issues surrounding begging by exploding some of the long-standing myths surrounding this issue. We have included four of the common misconceptions about people who beg in order to encourage people to think twice before giving loose change to people begging."

Myth 1 - Most people who beg for money in Aldershot are homeless

The truth

The number of people begging on the street is increasing, but currently, there are very few homeless people locally. This is partly as the result of the opening of North Lane Lodge, a nine-bed hostel specifically for rough sleepers with complex needs, which opened earlier this year. The ongoing work of the Home Group housing association's street outreach team, is also playing a valuable role in ensuring individuals can access specialist support to help them off the street.

Most people begging are not individuals in temporary difficulties, but are people who are dependent on begging income. There is no need to beg on the streets.

It is an urban myth that if you have no address, you cannot claim benefits. This isn't true.

In addition, there are several centres, based in Aldershot, which may be able to help, such as Step by Step - a youth charity that supports young people up to the age of 25-years-old, or The Vine Centre, where people can access support. The Home Group street outreach team will also help people to access the benefits and support they are entitled to, and the council works with other agencies to ensure support is available around health issues, sourcing employment and learning skills.

Myth 2 - There is no harm in giving some small change. It will help buy a warm drink or some food

The truth

Unfortunately, begging is often a symptom of another underlying issue such as addiction. Many of those who are begging have complex issues, some including addiction issues, which can lead to deterioration in their health.

Research from elsewhere in the UK shows a direct correlation between begging and addiction. Begging has increased significantly in Rushmoor and there is a growing concern that more people are begging due to addiction.

The truth is that many factors, ranging from relationship breakdown to communication barriers, can contribute to an individual becoming homeless, and it is usually a combination of many of these. Giving money to people who beg can worsen or prolong these issues.

The Positive Change campaign aims to bring long-term change to the lives of people previously associated with rough sleeping, and who may still socialise, drink or commit antisocial behaviour such as begging, on the street.

Myth 3 - Some cash will mean someone begging could pay for a room in a hostel for a night

The truth

Most people who beg already have accommodation. The emergency hostel accommodation set aside for men and women who are homeless does not require payment in order to 'book in'.

There are very few people currently sleeping rough on the streets of Aldershot. Most people begging have accommodation of sorts, either a hostel place or a flat or bedsit. Outreach workers can help those who don't, to access a hostel bed.

Myth 4 - This is a societal problem and individuals cannot help

The truth

Everyone wants to help but there is a better way than giving directly to someone begging. Help people access real and lasting support for a better future by donating to the Positive Change campaign, which supports charities who help vulnerable people, such as Step by Step, The Vine Centre and the Society of St James, who run North Lane Lodge in Aldershot.

Other ways to help include reporting anyone who may be sleeping rough, via the StreetLink website, which will come through to the council's housing team.

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