Here, SSJ Chief Executive, Trevor Pickup, discusses Southampton City Council’s proposed introduction of Public Spaces Protection orders, at a number of sites throughout Southampton. He also discusses the implications of a survey, commissioned by SSJ, which spoke to people who were street-begging in Southampton City Centre, in Summer 2015.
The Society of St James (SSJ) works with people who are homeless, who may also face drug and alcohol and/or mental health issues. SSJ see individuals facing substance misuse and homelessness as needing a response based on their needs, rather than finding their behaviour subject to legal restrictions.
There has clearly been an increase in the levels of begging in the Southampton and this is causing discomfort to many people in the City Centre. We understand that the issues are complex and that many of the people who have been begging are not homeless. There are also people who are homeless and sleeping rough who are not begging.
SSJ undertook a survey in the summer and spoke to 51 people who were begging. The most common reason given for begging was to get money for alcohol and drugs, with 75% of them saying they were dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Another issue that was raised, was that of problems faced by people trying to access welfare benefits, due to the tougher demands faced by claimants.
SSJ believes that these issues need to be addressed through a collective approach, across a range of fronts, including
- More effective outreach to help get people into drug and alcohol treatment programmes. This is currently being discussed within the Council and is a positive step.
- Educating the public not to give to beggars but to donate to charities and local agencies. This proposal is also being reviewed by the council and other partners, which is also encouraging.
SSJ opposes the introduction of the Public Spaces Protection Orders, because threatening people with legal action is not an appropriate response to dealing with complex social issues. We believe people should be supported to help them overcome their issues.
Begging is a symptom of complex problems in people’s lives and criminalising this cannot be seen as a humane response, in the 21st century.
If you would like to make a donation towards our outreach work to help us to support people with complex issues such as those mentioned above, you can text donate up to ten pounds by texting our code: SOSJ10 and the amount you wish to donate to 70070.
e.g. Text: “SOSJ10£5” to 70070 to send us a five pound donation.