Published Friday 3 November 2017 at 16:56
A new campaign to help beggars off the town centre streets has provided help, support, food and accommodation to vulnerable people in Blackburn.
The drive, which started on October 12, has engaged with beggars in and around the town centre and also provided a fast track for six people into support from drug and alcohol service Inspire.
The charity Thomas (Those on the Margins of a Society) also reported increases in people accessing services.
The campaign, includes specially commissioned outreach street reach teams who work intensively in the town with people street begging. Their work will continue throughout the year.
The street outreach teams, supported by the Council’s Community Safety team, said the response was “encouragingly positive” once people realised they were there to help. This isn’t a short term solution or an easy challenge to address; there is work to do with some individuals to get them to the point where they want to be helped and there are people who reach crisis point and will need help going forward. The public is asked to continue supporting charities that can offer a way out for those willing to accept it.
Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, said:
This campaign has helped to make a difference by providing people begging in the town with help and support to address the reasons why they are actually out on the streets begging.
A number of people have been supported into accommodation and an offer of substance misuse treatment.
Some of the regular begging pitches seem to have become empty but as we’ve said before it was never about forcing people off the streets.
It was firstly to give people the help and support should they want it and secondly giving the difficult message to inform generous people that the way to help is not giving beggars money which we know, in the main is not spent on buying things to help.
Harriet Roberts from Blackburn’s Business Improvement District (BID) said:
As we know, there isn’t a quick solution that can help all the people who are begging on our streets, but the research has shown that the campaign has raised public awareness in the town of the issues surrounding begging, which is what we aimed to achieve.
Ideally we hope that people will see that the best way to support vulnerable people is to give money to the local charities which can support them.
Feedback from the campaign showed that:
- the public response had been supportive with all businesses on King William street taking leaflets and posters;
- 6 individuals fast-tracked into the Inspire drug and alcohol addiction support service;
- an increase in numbers attending the soup kitchen run by Blackburn charity ‘Thomas’;
- 4 individuals assisted with accommodation; and 5 one to one follow up visits made follow initial street discussions.