Prestonians are being warned not to give to homeless people on the city’s streets.Advertisement
Claims are being made many of the individuals found begging in the city centre claim benefits and have a place to live.
The Foxton Centre, Preston Police, Preston City Council and Preston Business Improvement District say new research has identified donations are not going where they are most needed.
A campaign called Off The Street has been set up to urge the public not to give to people they see sleeping rough, but it will be administered by the Foxton Centre to go to those who need it most.
Funding for the scheme came from when Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, a former Miss Preston, had £3 offered to her by ‘Robbie’ a homeless man to help her get home from a night out.
Her story went viral along with her response – to sleep rough on Preston’s streets – helped raise £42,000 which was donated to The Foxton Centre.
Mark Whittle from Preston BID said: “Many city centre businesses that we represent have made it clear that anti-social begging creates a negative impression of our city centre.
“Collectively, we want to see those who genuinely need help get it and are very happy to be working with others to ensure that is the case. However, we are acutely aware that many people, who work in our city centre, or visit, are being deceived; this needs to be stop’.”
Police are to use two new powers to deal with persistent beggars.
The first is a community protection warning (CPW) and this is followed by a community protection notice (CPN) which would put the person in question before a magistrates’ court.
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Sergeant Phil Orme said: “Sadly, there are some individuals who exploit others misfortune and the kindness of the public and use this technique to earn some extra money.
“This is not fair on those who are genuinely in need and so we are working with BID Preston, the City Council and the Foxton Centre to ensure that those who are honestly in need can be helped, and those taking advantage will be moved on and given advice and support. Our priority is to protect our whole community; those who are vulnerable and the members of the public who are willing to help.”
Staff at The Foxton Centre are due to be out on the streets from Monday (15 August) visiting those who need help.
Chief executive of The Foxton Centre Jeff Marsh said: “We will continue our assertive outreach with homeless people in Preston as we believe having a place to live should be a right in England as it is in Scotland. We would welcome donations to the “Off the Street” Fund to help homeless people access accommodation, this fund would not be spent on the running costs of our charity and its use will be administered by a panel made up from other agencies to ensure it is spent wisely.”
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Preston City Council said it is supporting the campaign, after being shown the research on the number of people who are choosing to beg for money.
Cabinet member for environment councillor Robert Boswell said: “Together with the Police and the Foxton Centre, staff from Preston City Council have been talking with and offering support to the people who are begging on the streets of Preston.
“Preston is a compassionate and friendly city, so it’s understandable why people are trying to help those who are begging. Unfortunately, this is actually sustaining a begging culture. We have to try to break the cycle by encouraging those people who are choosing to beg to get help and turn their lives around. Long term, it’s in nobody’s best interests to be begging on the streets and as a responsible Council we have to act to help those involved.”
There’s a dedicated Off The Streets section on the Foxton Centre website, and you can also make a donation – either financial, or otherwise.
What do you think about begging and homelessness in the city centre? Let us know your views in the comments below