Answers to frequently asked questions on begging
be mean, you heard the man. How can you deny him a few pence for a cup of
evidence shows that people who beg on the streets of England 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 death.
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.
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.
recently, in a police crackdown in Birmingham on begging in autumn 2013, every
single one of the 40 people arrested failed a drug test.
evidence is indisputable that the overwhelming majority of people begging on
the streets of England spend their begging money on crack cocaine and heroin.
but what about this chap? He's just a few pounds short of what he needs to book
into a hostel tonight."
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.
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 mental
health programmes. Outreach teams are active at night, and often during the
day, seven days a week. In the last decade, 20,000 people have been helped off
40 per cent of people arrested for begging in a Metropolitan Police operation
claimed to be homeless.
operation in Birmingham in autumn 2013 showed that six out of ten people
arrested for begging had a home.
recent evidence published in July 2015 showed that fewer than one in five
people arrested for begging in England and Wales in 2014 were homeless,
according to police figures obtained by BBC Breakfast. Freedom of information
figures from 34 of 43 police forcers showed 1,002 people arrested for begging
in 2014 – of whom only 199 were legally defined as homeless.
begging have accommodation of sorts, either a hostel place or a flat or
who beg have accommodation. Outreach workers can help those who don't to access
a hostel bed.
but there's surely no harm in giving a few pence."
people who beg is not a benign act without consequences. As an organisation
that has worked with people on the street for early thirty years, we have seen
many lives damaged by hard drugs and alcohol misuse. We have even lost people
through overdoses in situations where a significant portion of the money they
spent on drugs came from members of the public giving loose change.
means, engage with people on the street. Perhaps buy them food or a cup of tea.
Best of all, if you are concerned for them because you think they are sleeping
rough, contact the Streetlink helpline on 0300 500 0914 or go to
people who beg is not a benign act. It can have fatal consequences.
on, these are just people a bit down on their luck"
begging are not individuals in temporary difficulties, but people who are
dependent on a begging income. This is almost certainly to fund a serious drug
There is no
need to beg on the streets in 2016. It is an urban myth that if you have no
address, you cannot claim benefits. This simply isn’t true. Meanwhile, there
are many day centres where homeless people can get food, clothing and support.
centres in London now offer support to people who are new to the streets in
London – 75 per cent of people no longer spend a second night out sleeping
That is not
to say that there are not many people on the streets needing help and support. Thames
Reach’s outreach teams out every night, in search of the isolated rough sleepers
who are missed by other services, helping them into accommodation and to find a
way out of homelessness.
asking for your money are caught up in a desperate cycle of begging from the
public, ‘scoring’ drugs from a dealer and then taking these drugs. There are
many services seeking to help people sleeping rough. Please work with them, not
half convinced, but surely if you don't give to people who beg then they will
only turn to crime to fund their drug or alcohol addiction."
something of a counsel of despair to think that we would give our loose change
to people begging to stop them committing crime. Besides, the evidence does not
bear out this proposition.
Metropolitan Police made numerous arrests for begging, it lead to the dispersal
of regular beggars and an overall reduction in the number of people begging on
the street. The police analysis that followed 'showed no displacement into
crime by beggars moving off the street and the crime figures for the areas remained
residents who persist in begging, a reduction in the income supplied through
begging can be the catalyst that leads them to spend more time working with
staff and thinking about the future. This makes it easier for them to move on
to more long-term accommodation or appropriate treatment, and away from the
There is no
evidence that reducing begging leads to more crime. In fact, it can stimulate
people to address their real needs, instead of avoiding facing them.
this just about the councils wanting cleaner neighbourhoods?"
Reach's primary concern is that people with serious drug and alcohol problems
are gravely damaging their health and even putting their lives at risk using
money raised through begging. However, we are also aware that local communities
are justifiably concerned at the impact of begging on their neighbourhoods.
commissioned by the Home Office found that 54 per cent of the public choose not
to use a cash point if there is someone begging next to it. These are
reasonable fears that individual members of the public experience. As a
responsible organisation working with and in local communities, we seek to
understand and address these concerns.
with communities to address concerns about begging and its impact is a
responsibility that we at Thames Reach take very seriously.
you may have some valid points, but aren't you demonising all homeless people
as feckless beggars and drug addicts?"
point we want to make is that the link is primarily between begging and the
misuse of hard drugs, not between homelessness and begging or homelessness and
sleeping rough do not beg and most people begging do not sleep rough. Although
there are many rough sleepers with serious drug problems (our figures show that
about one in three of the rough sleepers we help have a drug problem), the
majority have not. Our overriding concern is to save lives. Every year there
are drug or drink-related death amongst the homeless population on the street.
Figures from an eminent doctor working with London’s drug using population
indicated that the average age that intravenous drug users were dying in
central London was shockingly only 31. We want to help people to get off the
street and into decent accommodation where they can get the care and support
they need. To do this we need the backing of the public.
The link is
between begging and drug and alcohol misuse, not homelessness and begging, nor
even homelessness and drugs.
you've convinced me, how can I help people to get off the street and away from
local homelessness charities that are working with people in need. You can make
a donation or offer up your time as a volunteer.
are not asking you to just 'walk on by'. By all means engage street homeless
people in conversation, even buy them a cup of tea or food. But please don't
give them money. We have seen too many people die from overdoses on the street.
Your kindness could kill.
plenty of ways of ensuring that your money is spent on finding real solutions
to homelessness and drug and alcohol addiction. Help Thames Reach to end street
homelessness in London.