Preston is set to appoint a city centre warden to concentrate on a renewed crackdown on beggars.
The city’s Business Improvement District is looking to recruit a part-time warden to steer people off the streets and towards help - or help with prosecuting people behaving anti-socially.
Those behind the scheme say people who are genuinely homeless and in trouble will be offered help.
Others who refuse assistance and are considered a nuisance could be served with enforcement notices, and could even face court. Authorities have previously asked the public not to give money directly to beggars, as not all are genuinely homeless.
The crackdown on beggars is continuing with support from the city’s Foxton Centre for the homeless, the police and Preston City Council.
The warden’s role, on a pro-rata salary of £35,000, is being paid for by Preston BID, which receives funds from many city centre businesses.
A spokesman for Preston City Centre Business Improvement District said: “The BID has chosen to fund the city warden resource to ensure that individuals in genuine need are able to access a wide range of important support services.
“Equally, the role of the city warden will be to work with the city council and police colleagues to issue enforcement to individuals persistently engaged in begging, who are not homeless.”
The part-time warden’s role is for 17.5 hours per week.
Responsibilities will include engaging with people to encourage access to support services from partner agencies; investigating and resolving requests for support in regard to anti-social begging; preparing and serve statutory notices and assisting in preparing files for legal proceedings for persistent anti-social begging, and liaising with city centre businesses and police.
Foxton Centre chief executive Jeff Marsh said: “We will be happy to work alongside the person and obviously if they pick up people in difficulty we are there. If someone is found out of hours we can pick them up and offer them accommodation. A lot of people out there are in real difficulty.
“Our concern is homelessness, that’s our major concern.
“People are worried about aggressive begging and as a charity that’s not our concern but we are happy to work alongside people to make the city a better place for everyone.
“Our work isn’t about enforcement.
“We are interested in building relationships with people and steering them away from being homeless.”
Adrian Phillips, Chief Executive at Preston City Council said,“We are fully committed to the success of the city centre and are aware that retailers and residents have growing concerns about the presence of beggars on the high street.
“Whilst we are working in partnership with Lancashire Police and Preston BID to recruit a City Centre Warden, we are also continuing to work with key partners and agencies to support the vulnerable individuals we see in Preston who need help with a wide range of complex needs.
“Dealing with the homelessness issue is a key priority for the council, and we are actively working on a number of ground breaking schemes with the Foxton Centre and Community Gateway Association with government funding.”
The BID is adamant that it is not taking a heavy-handed approach to beggars and is sympathetic to the genuinely homeless.
It said recently: “It’s an issue in most towns/cities.
“Here in Preston we are supportive of those in genuine need and look to signpost appropriate partners.
”What we aren’t supportive of is career beggars who can make significant amounts of money from generous members of the public.”
Despite a campaign dating back more than two years, all agencies are dismayed to find that many “beggars” on the streets in Preston are not destitute. One survey saw six out of 95 beggars in Preston identified as genuinely homeless.
A key part of the support on offer to the homeless in Preston is a pro-active outreach programme, conducted by the city’s Foxton Centre.
Those begging on the city’s streets are visited by staff and volunteers to encourage them to engage with support.
But beggars are still seen in doorways and approaching shoppers for cash,
One Post reader posted on social media this week: “I walked down Preston high street and got asked 17 times for money off the homeless.
“I’m a sucker and gave my change in my purse.
“On my way to my car at 4pm, I see one of the homeless guys setting off fireworks on a car park... enough said.”