Work to tackle begging publicised through information stall

Picture caption: Cllr Mark Dobson, Sophie Foster from the West Yorkshire Outreach Service and Chief Inspector Phil Wiggins at the information stall event.

An information stall publicising the work being undertaken to tackle begging in Leeds city centre, has been held this week.

Commuters and visitors to Leeds Train Station were given the chance to find out more at the stall, which was organised by the West Yorkshire Outreach Service, and supported by the Safer Leeds Partnership including Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police.

Also speaking to members of the public was Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for Safer Leeds, Councillor Mark Dobson, and Chief Inspector Phil Wiggins from West Yorkshire Police who highlighted the reasons why there were better alternatives to the public in order to support those in need than simply giving money to a beggar on the street whose personal circumstances are unknown to the public. A range of alternatives are available to the public in order to help the homeless, which include the purchasing of pre-paid vouchers from support organisation such as St Georges Crypt and other partners in Leeds. Providing money in this way guarantees that it will be used to pay for a hot meal or somewhere to stay for someone, and not to potentially purchase other items such as alcohol or drugs.

Earlier this year, Leeds City Council secured a new injunction order which can be served on any individual begging in the city centre as part of its work to target those people who are not homeless and do not have to live on the streets, but continue to ask the public for money despite support services being made available to them.

Councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for Safer Leeds said:

"There are a wide range of services available to help those who choose to beg on the streets in Leeds, and the aim through our information stalls is to let the public know what they are and also answer any questions that they might have about how they can best support the work we are undertaking to assist those people in real need.

"The stalls are also an opportunity for us to speak to members of the public and discuss why giving money to beggars is not the best way to offer help. Unfortunately there are people who do not have to live on the streets, but have decided as a lifestyle choice to beg. This is completely unacceptable, which is why, as part of a range of work we are undertaking regarding this problem, we secured an injunction order than can ban any individual from begging in the city centre if they continue with this type of behaviour."

Chief Inspector Phil Wiggins, West Yorkshire Police said:

"We are taking a balanced and co-ordinated approach with our partners to help and support the homeless beggars in Leeds.

"Our first priority is always the wellbeing of the individual and as part of our work, this includes making sure they are able to access the wide range of support services that are on offer. Enforcement action is always the last resort, and is only done when those people are ignoring our offers of help, and are deciding instead to continue begging on the streets, which is something we simply will not tolerate."

Notes to editors:

For more information on the free services provided to rough sleepers in Leeds please visit the following websites:

- CRI Leeds Street Outreach Team www.cri.org.uk

- St Georges Crypt www.stgeorgescrypt.org.uk

- St Anne’s Community Services www.st-annes.org.uk

- The Big Issue in the north Trust www.bigissuesinthenorth.com

- Emmaus Leeds www.emmaus.org.uk/leeds

- Simon on the Streets

Anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough can call the CRI Street Outreach Team on

Tel 0113 245 9445 or during out of office hours the Council Emergency Duty Team on Tel: 0113 2409536

For media enquiries, please contact;

Colin Dickinson, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 39 51578

Email: colin.dickinson@leeds.gov.uk