Change Grow Live address the impact of rough sleeping and begging in Leeds
Blog posted by: Lesley Howard, 9 June 2017.
In 2014, the Change Grow Live (CGL) Street Outreach Service was commissioned to work with an equal focus on rough sleeping and begging in Leeds.
There had been a significant increase in begging activity, but there was no clear pathway to support for people who were involved in this behaviour.
We began daily street outreach sessions at prime times with various partner agencies including the police, the Big Issue in the North and Forward Leeds (substance misuse service). Our aim was to assist people in moving away from the streets and accessing the relevant support agencies available to them.
Our data showed that some of our service users who were rough sleeping would also beg, but the number of service users who were begging and also rough sleeping were low. Accommodation was not the primary support need.
Almost all the people that we engaged with during outreach were dependant on substances and were begging to fund an addiction. They were entrenched in a street-based lifestyle and presented a multitude of support needs including mental and physical health, self-neglect, domestic abuse and learning disability.
We soon realised that this issue was much more complex than any of us had thought and services needed a joint partnership approach to tackle this problem.
I began co-chairing the City Centre Strategy meeting with the Inspector from Safer Leeds. A group was created to form a strategy to address street begging. Representatives from voluntary and statutory agencies attended the twice monthly meeting and a joint plan of action was created.
Strong partnerships were formed to deliver a multi-agency approach, assisting vulnerable people who lived chaotic and complicated lives to gain access to services on the street. A case conference method ensured that all services were involved in those plans, and that enforcement action was always used as a last resort.
The ‘Think Before You Give’ campaign was designed by the strategy group members and launched in 2015. The aim was to increase public awareness of resources that were available to help anyone who was rough sleeping, or begging in Leeds. It offered an alternative to giving money directly to people on the street. Instead, they could donate to the appropriate charities that support people within the homeless community. All donations received are distributed between the charities involved in the campaign.
CGL are now three years into the project and have gained extensive experience, working successfully with a street-based community. As a service and as a city, we have evolved and developed new and innovative ways of assisting individuals to leave the streets by identifying and tackling underlying support needs. We have learnt to manage relationships with the public to ensure they understand what action is being taken to address this complex issue. People who are rough sleeping, or begging are some of the most vulnerable members of our society and we need to work in a flexible and creative way to meet their needs and ensure that no one needs to beg in Leeds.
Lesley from CGL will be leading a workshop on the first day of Homeless Link’s Under One Roofconference. The workshop will focus on discussions around how we are supporting people who are rough sleeping and begging.
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