A CRACKDOWN on beggars is being launched in Preston city centre.
The move could lead to “professional” beggars being issued with warning notices – and even fines.
Police, Preston City Council, business leaders and the city’s Foxton Centre are encouraging people who want to help the homeless to donate to a special fund instead of handing over cash.
Mark Whittle from Preston Business Improvement District, said: “Many city centre businesses that we represent have made it clear that anti-social begging creates a negative impression of our city centre.
“We want to see those who genuinely need help get it and are very happy to be working with others to ensure that is the case.
“However, we are acutely aware that many people who work in our city centre, or visit, are being deceived – this needs to be stopped.”
A recent piece of research, undertaken in partnership by Lancashire Constabulary, Preston Business Improvement District (BID) Preston City Council and the Foxton Centre, has identified that many beggars in the city centre actually claim benefits and have a place to live.
The campaign entitled Off The Street will encourage people who wish to donate, to do so via official means
A fund has been established to hold any donations from the public, it will be hosted by the Foxton Centre who will administer it jointly with other homeless support charities to ensure the funds collected are invested in supporting individuals who are in genuine need.
From today the campaign, backed by Preston City Council, Preston Business Improvement District, Lancashire Constabulary and the Foxton Centre, will highlight the most effective way for people to offer their support.
Beggars who are persistent in misleading members of the public to part with cash can now be issued with a Community Protection Warning.
Individuals who continue anti-social begging could then be issued with a Community Protection Notice which could see them before a magistrate.
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 will be visited by staff and volunteers to encourage them to engage with support available.
Mark Whittle from PrestonBID said: “Many city centre businesses that we represent have made it clear that anti-social begging creates a negative impression of our city centre.
“Collectively, we want to see those who genuinely need help get it and are very happy to be working with others to ensure that is the case. However, we are acutely aware that many people, who work in our city centre, or visit, are being deceived; this needs to be stop.”
Coun Robert Boswell, Cabinet Member for Environment at Preston City Council said: “Together with the police and the Foxton Centre, staff from Preston City Council have been talking with and offering support to the people who are begging on the streets of Preston. While there are complex issues at play, it has become evident that a high percentage of the people begging in Preston are not rough sleeping, but are choosing to beg.”
He continued: “Preston is a compassionate and friendly city, so it’s understandable why people are trying to help those who are begging. Unfortunately, this is actually sustaining a begging culture. We have to try to break the cycle by encouraging those people who choose to beg to get help and turn their lives around.”
Jeff Marsh, Chief Executive of The Foxton Centre said: “We will continue our assertive outreach with homeless people in Preston as we believe having a place to live should be a right in England as it is in Scotland.
“We would welcome donations to the Off the Street Fund to help homeless people access accommodation”.
Sergeant Phil Orme said; “Sadly, there are some individuals who exploit others’ misfortune and the kindness of the public and use this technique to earn some extra money.”
To donate to the Off the Streets fund, visit www.thefoxtoncentre.co.uk/content/donations