The link between begging and drugs
Overwhelming evidence shows that people who beg on
the streets of London do so in order to buy hard drugs, particularly crack
cocaine and heroin, and super-strength alcoholic beers and ciders. These highly
addictive drugs cause an extreme deterioration in people’s health and even
This evidence comes from a number of sources.
Firstly Thames Reach’s outreach teams including its London Street Rescue
service who are out and about on the streets of the capital working with London’s
homeless 365 days of the year. They estimate that 80 per cent of people begging
do so to support a drug habit.
In the experience of frontline workers, people are
more likely to accept help and to address their addictions when they are not
receiving money from begging.
Secondly, when the Metropolitan Police did some
drug testing of people arrested for begging, the figures indicated that between
70 and 80 per cent tested positive for Class A drugs.
Most recently, in a police crackdown in Birmingham on begging in
autumn 2013, every single one of the 40 people arrested failed a drug test.
Thames Reach Chief Executive Jeremy Swain said:
"The frontline homelessness charities are in no doubt that money
contributed by caring members of the public to people begging is, invariably,
spent on heroin and crack cocaine, causing ill health, misery and sometimes
"Please give us the opportunity of
transforming lives by putting money into services instead of into the pockets
of the dealers."
Homelessness and hostels
The hostel accommodation set aside for London’s
homeless men and women does not require payment in order to 'book in'. Hostel
rent is covered through Housing Benefit, which hostel workers can help the new
resident to claim once they have moved into the hostel.
There are around 3,000 bed-spaces of hostel
accommodation in London, which can be accessed via the street outreach teams
that work in the central London boroughs. London Street Rescue, run by Thames
Reach, is one of the main providers of outreach services across London. Our
teams not only help people to find accommodation but also get them into drug
and alcohol treatment and mental health programmes.
Outreach teams are active at night, and during the
day, seven days a week. In the last decade, 20,000 people have been helped off
However, only 40 per cent of people arrested for
begging in a Metropolitan Police operation claimed to be homeless. Most people
begging have accommodation of sorts, either a hostel place or a flat or
Read frequently asked questions about begging
You can still help
Rather than giving money to people on the streets, the Killing with Kindness campaign urges people to give their spare change to homelessness charities. All money donated to Thames Reach goes directly towards helping homeless and vulnerable people.
If you see someone on the streets who you are worried
about you can phone the Street Link helpline 0300 500 0914 and outreach teams will investigate and offer support
to the individual.