MANY beggars in Solihull are not homeless and ask for money only to feed their substance habits, a council report has warned.
Solihull Council is launching a strategy to address ‘aggressive begging’ amid fears that beggars could be on the streets by choice.
Council officers claim that addiction support services in the borough have confirmed some beggars have shelter to return to and choose to beg for extra income.
Despite there being only two known rough sleepers in Solihull, officers claim beggars – often coming from other areas – are defecating in the streets and exploiting people.
In a report to the council’s communities scrutiny board, officer Caroline Naven says that beggars are ‘badly affecting’ the town centre.
Proposing the strategy – which will be discussed next Wednesday (June 14) – she says: “In addition to vulnerable homeless people there is a growing number of people who present across the borough to beg.
“However, on occasions some individuals have been involved in aggressive begging and nuisance behaviours resulting in reports from members of the public outlining their concerns and requiring action.
“The reporters feel that the behaviours of these few people are badly affecting the vibrancy of our town centre and shopping centres, causing harm to innocent bystanders and businesses.
“They are allegedly causing significant risk of harm by depositing drug paraphernalia, supplying and using of drugs and urinating and defecating in public places along with the exploitation of others.
“The Solihull Integrated Addiction Service outreach worker has been able to establish that a high proportion of the beggars are not homeless but see begging as a safe way to supplement their income to feed their substance misuse habits.
“We also know that the few people presenting in Solihull that are genuinely homeless and choose this life style, do not beg.”
The report states areas with a high number of negative reports include town centres in Solihull, Shirley and Chelmsley Wood along with shopping areas such as Dovehouse Parade, Sears Retail Park and several places in Castle Bromwich.
Solihull has seen an increase in begging behaviours across the borough over the last 12 to 18 months, the report adds.
Ms Naven says much of this is due to displacement of beggars from neighbouring areas such as Birmingham and Coventry.
The four-pronged strategy outlined in the report would aim at addressing the underlying issues that cause begging with help from the police and other organisations including churches.
It proposes alternative ‘giving schemes’ and public information to provide assurance that money donated is going to ‘people in need.’
It advocates getting more vulnerable people into sustainable homes as well as addiction support.
It also includes punishments for those causing nuisance in public in the hope of changing behaviour.