If you want to help the homeless, give to these charities

OpinionHomelessness is a complicated issue which needs a multi-aganecy approach, says Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey.

Homelessness is a complicated issue which needs a multi-aganecy approach, says Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey.

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Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey says giving to charities is the best way to help the homelessness issue.


Homeless people account for some of the most vulnerable in society and protecting the vulnerable is a priority for police in Norfolk. Another major part of local policing is listening and responding to concerns made by members of the public. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen a steady increase in complaints concerning aggressive begging and anti-social behaviour by those people including street drinking, urinating, shouting and swearing in the Haymarket area of Norwich.

While homelessness itself is not a crime, we cannot ignore complaints of this nature and a lot of work has been done to address these problems. There are misconceptions around street begging which need addressing for the benefit of everyone, including those who are genuinely homeless. While it may not seem an appealing career, we know there are people on the streets of Norwich begging who have access to accommodation.

People choose to reject available accommodation, sometimes on the basis of strict alcohol and drug policies (free zones) or because they cannot be accommodated with a friend or partner. We know this happens to help offered by support services too. The Haymarket is an area used by organisations and groups offering support services to the homeless.

However, members of the public have reported feeling intimidated by some people using this service while genuine homeless people have told officers they don’t feel able to get support for the same reason. Many people visiting our fine city through acts of kindness will give money to the homeless. There is no guarantee where your money will end up and the sad reality is it’s more likely to be spent on feeding addictions to alcohol or drugs rather than food or a hot cup of tea.

Beggars can earn anything between GBP50 and GBP150 a day on the streets, money which only tends to fuel the cycle people find themselves in. The issues of homelessness and begging raise wider and more complex issues which can’t be solved overnight and need to be addressed by everyone working together. We can deal with the anti-social behaviour by increasing patrols and resolving incidents when they happen and using powers available to us in a bid to prevent incidents from happening.

This includes the use of Criminal Behaviour Orders, which carry conditions preventing people from entering a specific area or, for example, being in possession of an open canister of alcohol. It is important to note that when conditions are imposed, the welfare and needs of the individual are taken into consideration, so they are not prevented from accessing support services. Recent commentary on this subject demonstrates there is passion within the local community to find a workable and long-lasting solution, which it seems people would be prepared to fund but this generosity needs to be redirected.

Giving money directly to people begging and in turn funding their addictions is not going to solve the problem.

There are several charities and organisations including St Martin’s Housing Trust and the Salvation Army which can help people and it’s by funding these charities, I believe, that we can make a real difference.

A collective approach from police and partners including Norwich City Council and support services is in my opinion the best way to help those people who need it most.


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